It feels like you can't even look at tech news for five seconds without coming across a harrowing story about a virus, a Trojan Horse, some ransomware, or some other equally terrifying threat to your personal information and money. Security company Kaspersky reports that nearly a third of people using a computer experienced some form of web attack during 2016. Over 750,000 computers suffered from a ransomware infection and the number is steadily increasing.

All of this can be overwhelming to say the least. The good news is that all of these threats can be bundled up into some general categories that make it possible to protect yourself from most of the upcoming attacks. The following are some of the biggest security threats to watch out for in 2017, along with how to keep yourself safe.

Medical Data Breach

Data breaches are hardly a new threat. They've been one of the most well-known security threats since Target was hacked in 2013 and millions of customers had their information stolen. Yahoo is one of the most recent breaches as of late 2016 with 500 million accounts affected. This is a threat that will evolve in 2017 and beyond.

It's expected that retailers will continue to suffer from major breaches, and there seems to be a real focus on hotels right now. Attacks were directed at Starwood, Hilton, and other hotels beginning in 2015 that continued into 2016. However hackers are likely to move on to easier prey following the introduction of point-of-sale terminals using EMV chips and mobile payments. These EMV chips are in the latest credit and debit cards and they go a long way to keeping you safe, as do mobile payment platforms.

In 2017 it's expected that the problem could become medical data breaches. According to Modern Healthcare, the healthcare industry suffered a record 92 privacy breaches in the first 11 months of 2016. This trend is set to continue as hospitals and insurance providers have problems adapting to the latest digital security measures. To their credit though this is a new problem to them. "Even so", according to Xmedius Sendsecure CEO Sébastien Boire-Lavigne, "it doesn't mean much when you realize someone is selling your medical information on the black market."

Money is the main reason that hackers will choose medical information. There is plenty of personal and financial information on the black market, so it doesn't sell for a lot of money. However there's much less supply and much more demand for medical information. With this comes an increased price tag. Many people are also keeping a closer eye on their financial information to discover fraud as soon as it happens, but barely anyone looks at their medical insurance records. So hackers can get a lot of mileage from your information before they are found.


Ransomware is when the files on your computer are encrypted and you are left with the choice to pay a fee to have the lock removed or lose your data, hence the name. The FBI are actually suggesting people should pay the ransom to have their files restored. Much like data breaches ransomware is hardly a new problem. It came to prominence with the emergence of the CryptoLocker virus of 2013.

Ransomware is a very serious threat and things are only getting worse. This is because it can be picked up for free and hackers have the option of changing it up however they want to make it work for them.

Ransomware can affect more than just one computer too. It can even lock up an entire network and bring down a whole company. Ransomware can even infect your mobile devices through the use of emails, texts, and even apps.

The good news is that it can be stopped. Ransomware needs to be installed to work, so as long as you can avoid becoming a victim of a phishing email and avoid dodgy downloads you should be able to avoid ransomware.

Smart Phone Trojan Horse

eMarketer reports that adults will spend an average of 25 hours online a week. Much of this time is spent using a mobile phone. As such you won't be surprised to learn that hackers are focusing their efforts on apps and smartphones. All it takes is an app download to get the party started.

The main mobile threats in 2016 were advertising Trojans Horses able to obtain 'root' or superuser rights on an infected Android device - a level of access that allowed them to do pretty much whatever they wanted. This included hiding in the system folder, thereby making themselves almost impossible to delete, and silently installing and launching different apps that aggressively display advertising. They can even buy new apps from Google Play.

Keep One Eye Open!

It's important you understand that there will always be new threats and no one can tell for sure which threats will become a big issue. One of the latest trends to watch out for is bootkits. These viruses are particularly tricky to discover and stop after they start working and they are becoming a common hacking tool.

The good news is that bootkits are delivered just how every other virus is; through phishing scams and malicious downloads. Just keep an eye on what you click on and don't download anything suspicious and you should be fine. Some people go their whole online lives without ever needing a virus remover.

Security has moved from the IT department to the board room. It's not something you can simply ignore -- especially as your data continues to grow as one of your biggest assets in your company. If you haven't updated your security hardware and software for some time now, you might want to add talking to a security professional to your 2017 priority list.

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Published on: Jan 3, 2017
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of