Whether you’re a standard issue office professional, hustling entrepreneur, student, or some combination of the three, you’ve no doubt noticed an evolution in personal technology the last five years or so. Less common now are laptops, dedicated cameras, and GPS gadgets; they’ve been consolidated into tablets and smartphones. While traditional computers are certainly still around, it’s safe to say everyone is spending more time online via mobile devices than they were back in 2012.
With this change comes updates to cyber security and digital forensics. Simply put, we’re no longer in the world we were as recently as five years ago – data recovery services were predominantly preoccupied with salvaging in the aftermath of hard disk failure and other problems linked to traditional computer systems. Sometimes viruses would be to blame, but the cause was more times than not traced to human error or parts failure.
So what’s different now? Here are the major changes to the landscape of cyber security, data recovery, and digital forensics since 2012:
As touched upon earlier, the biggest leap of the last five years has been the increase in mobile internet browsing as well as business tasks being conducted via smartphone miles away from the office. Companies specializing in data recovery information services and digital forensics are now expected to perform these tasks on iPhones and iPads in addition to traditional computer systems. The same holds true of cyber security, where functional protection only succeeds when it accounts for this variety of devices, operating systems, points of connection, and users.
Five years ago it was still relatively unfathomable for anyone other than Batman to have the ability to secretly monitor people via their internet-connected devices. Yet with the numerous revelations about state surveillance and hacker capabilities to come out in the years to follow, it’s become clear this is no longer a capability reserved for comic book characters. Former FBI Director James Comey even warned ordinary citizens to cover their webcams back in 2016, highlighting the seriousness of this new threat.
Internet of Things
Sure, Bill Gates has enjoyed the benefits of a smart home since the late-90s, but this technology has only just begun to be made available to middle-income consumers. The cloud combined with relatively powerful single-board computers has enabled everything from refrigerators to garage doors to be synced to phone apps and therefore manipulatable wherever someone with access has a connection. Therein lies the risk: if an unauthorized entity could gain access to internet of things devices within a home, there’s a wide range of potential for mischief and much worse. It sounds like a scene from an awesomely bad crime show, but hijacking a modern car’s computer via its internet connection and simultaneously taking control of the garage door via the home’s smart network goes beyond inconvenience and enters mortal danger.
Lastly, we arrive at ransomware, the latest cybercrime trend sweeping the globe. Simply put, criminals gain control of vital data and encrypt it, typically belonging to a business, and demand a sum of money in exchange for providing the keys to encryption. Technically, ransomware is nothing new; it’s been around since the late-80s according to tech experts. However, what’s changed and exponentially so over the last five years is the rate in which ransomware is being deployed at unfortunately high rates of success. Too many companies continue to operate on outdated hardware, software, and security and pay the price by having their data stolen from them. Even if the ransom is paid, there’s never a guarantee the keys to encryption will be exchanged as promised, not to mention any particularly sensitive data has already been compromised by virtue of the attack.
The sophistication and proliferation of modern personal technology continue to increase. Along with it, increased risks to data, digital privacy, and even personal wellbeing. However, like all shifts in tech, the benefits outweigh the added dangers. So long as individuals and companies take the time to guard against these threats, the harm will be minimal.