Security News

The good, the bad, and the ugly of Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Jeff Elder, 12 October 2019

New awareness, crimefighting, and tools meet new threats and bizarre IoT devices in this overview

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and an opportunity to reflect on the state of cybersecurity. Tools are now more sophisticated – and they have to be because of a wide variety of threats. And the sheer weirdness of some hacking never ceases to surprise. With a nod to Clint Eastwood, here’s a roundup of the good, the bad, and the ugly of cybersecurity in 2019.

The good

This is the 16th Cybersecurity Awareness Month, this year with an empowering message about the role we all play in online safety and security at home and in the workplace. We’ve come a long way. When the day was launched in 2004 by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), “The awareness efforts centered around advice like updating your antivirus software twice a year to mirror similar efforts around changing batteries in smoke alarms during daylight saving time," according to the NCSA

Crimefighting in cybersecurity has taken a big step forward, with the FBI successfully recovering more than $192 million in funds stolen by cybercriminals. The bureau’s Recovery Asset Team has helped streamline communication with financial institutions and assist FBI field offices in the recovery of funds for businesses that report a fraudulent domestic transfer. 

Providing a new view into an emerging industry, researchers at Avast and Stanford University provided a world map of the Internet of Things by analyzing user-initiated scans of 83 million IoT devices in 16 million homes worldwide.

The bad

According to the ISACA industry group (formerly the Information Systems Audit and Control Association), “Cybersecurity in 2019 was defined by two key trends: lack of staff and abundance of risk.” In a Cybersecurity Month report titled the “State of Cybersecurity 2019,” the group reported that 58% of companies surveyed have unfilled infosec positions, and 69% said their IT security teams are understaffed. 

In a Cybersecurity Month report, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported that nearly two-thirds of American adults – 64% – have noticed or been notified of a major data breach affecting their sensitive accounts or personal data.  

The FBI said 2018’s cybercrimes were responsible for a staggering $2.7 billion in financial losses in 2018. Almost half of that ($1.2 billion) came in the form of business email compromises

A device about the size of a pack of gum, called PegLeg is meant to be surgically inserted into your leg.

The ugly

This Cybersecurity Month finds wearables and IoT devices reaching new levels of weirdness. We’ve all heard of thumb drives. In 2019 we have moved on to the leg drive. A device about the size of a pack of gum, called PegLeg is meant to be surgically inserted into your leg. Any Wi-Fi enabled device can access it, and the device can store hundreds of gigabytes of data. This would allow the embedded user to bootleg data into another country. 

Not to be outdone, the Internet of Things has made room for the smart kitty litter box. LavvieBot claims to be the world’s first and only IoT cat litter box, and it both auto-cleans and refills litter. It can also text you when your cat poops, Entrepreneur reports

And hackers continue to keep the world interesting, sometimes just to get people’s attention. Two men in Auburn Hills, Mich., hacked into an electronic billboard alongside an interstate and uploaded porn that played to the surprise of passing motorists. "I've never seen or heard of anything like this," Auburn Hills Police Lt. Ryan Gagnon told The Detroit Free Press. Gagnon called the prank “a huge distraction to drivers.”

The National Cyber Security Alliance has a full explanation of Cybersecurity Awareness Month on its Stay Safe Online website. The NHS has more information and resources here

Finally, this month Avast Free Antivirus was named the winner of the “Consumer Antivirus Software of the Year” award from CyberSecurity Breakthrough, a leading independent market intelligence organization that recognizes the top companies, technologies and products in the global information security market today. Read more about the honor, and download the best antivirus in the world free here.