In our world of data sharing, issues of privacy and security are ongoing topics of concern for individuals and businesses alike. From downloading damaging viruses to hackers seeking sensitive information such as SIN numbers, cyber security has become vital in protecting valuable data.
Founded in 1987, McAfee is one of the world’s leading and best-known online security companies. Gary Davis is Chief Consumer Security Evangelist at McAfee. He keeps his finger on the pulse of cyber security to ensure that the company’s virus definitions are up to date, while working to educate the public about ongoing security challenges. “There’s never a dull moment,” says Davis. “Every day something’s happening; last week HBO was breached, and we just issued a report talking about challenges with connected cars. Every day there’s a new nuance.”
Even those who are relatively unfamiliar with technology can understand the real threats posed by failed cyber security systems. Equifax’s recent high profile data breach, for example, exposed sensitive data – things like addresses, birth dates, and banking details – of an estimated 8,000 Canadians. Individuals like Davis serve as the first line of defense in providing digital consumers with the education they need to better protect themselves.
“A lot of companies are building technologies that do a better job at detecting ransomware and stopping it, but it all comes down to how many people have it employed either at home or in their business,” says Davis. He adds that ransomware attacks, which demand exorbitant amounts of money in exchange for the return of data or access to data, are accelerating and small businesses are often the hardest hit. “If your large company is impacted by a ransomware attack, you can typically recover; you may lose some revenue, but at the end of it you can get yourself back up and running. When a small business is locked out, there are a lot of times these businesses go under because it’s too devastating.”
In truth, all of us who are connected to the Internet through smart phones, TVs, and smart home devices are vulnerable to these threats. “That’s one of the biggest challenges right now, this stuff is complex,” says Davis. “We always strive to give simple advice. Something as simple as changing a password on a new device is going to make it dramatically more difficult to be exploited because crawlers only try a series of default credentials, and if they don’t work, they’re going to move on to the next device.”
Artificial intelligence offers another promising advancement in cyber protection. “Almost all these attacks you hear about are the result of someone making a mistake somewhere along the line,” says Davis. He makes reference to Target, which was breached by malware when a vendor accidentally connected a device that wasn’t a Target machine into the company’s network. “The whole intent of [A.I. intervention] is to lower the likelihood of it being a human-related security issue, and then couple that with a cyber product that will help users be a better cyber citizen.”
*Look for Part 2 of this article in the November issue of Go Magazine.