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Where are data breaches likely to rear their head in 2022?

Experian recently released its data breach forecast for 2022.

Let’s look at what Experian is projecting as the most significant potential risks for the year ahead and what you can do to protect yourself from the risks associated with data breaches.

2022 set to deliver more of the same as 2021?

The most notable headline from Experian’s report is the expectation that 2022 will be a hangover from 2021.

What Experian means is that the past 12 months, even more so than 2020, have seen cybercriminals more active than ever before. As a result, data breach incidents are at an all-time high, and stolen data is changing hands across the dark web quicker than ever before.

This is one consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic and our personal and professional lives being more interconnected than ever. However, that isn’t likely to change anytime soon, hence why Experian thinks 2022 could be another record-breaking year for data breaches.

Which areas does Experian think are at considerable risk of data breaches in 2022?

In its report, Experian highlights five areas it believes will be most vulnerable in 2022:

  • Charities and organisations dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters and supply chain disruptions
  • Online gambling platforms
  • Organisations with remote workers
  • Digital assets
  • Infrastructure

Except for infrastructure, where cyberattacks could still be hugely disruptive to us personally, every potential vulnerability on this list can be addressed and mitigated by ourselves as individuals.

Let’s look closer at these four factors and what you can do to minimise your personal risk of being affected by a data breach.

1.      Charitable giving

Natural disasters tend to drive uplifts in charitable donations. But, unfortunately, such events and periods of uncertainty overall, like the pandemic, also prove attractive to cybercriminals.

Experian is predicting that cybercriminals will continue exploiting such times and events in several ways. From a consumer perspective, the most significant thing to look out for is phishing emails – where cybercriminals pose as a charity – or other scams either asking for donations or requesting your bank details to set up regular donations by direct debit.

Some cybercriminals will be happy enough if you pay them. After all, doing anything else may increase the likelihood of their scam being discovered. However, once they have your details, others will seek to use your bank or payment card details to defraud you.

To avoid falling victim to such scams, you should:

  • Check your bank so you know which charities you donate to and when by direct debit.
  • Avoid clicking any emails or text messages from charities you have shared your details with. If you get an email claiming to be about your account or details, delete the email and log in to your account with that charity. If the email was genuine, the same message will be waiting for you.
  • Avoid donating to charities you haven’t heard of or are unfamiliar with. You can check if they’re legit using the government’s charity register for charities claiming to be in England and Wales. If they’re not on the register, you could be being targeted by a scammer.
  • Look out for news stories or notifications from charities you donate to informing you of a data breach and your details being put at risk. But remember not to click on a text or email!

2.      Online gambling

The online gambling industry is massive, with a The Business Research Company report projecting the global market to be worth more than $72 billion (£54 billion) in 2021.

This is another industry that has seen a significant boom in the past couple of years. Many people finding themselves bored at home decided to fill their time by gambling online via sports betting, bingo, or online slot machine games. Online gambling is likely to continue seeing substantial growth globally, too, as many US states and countries worldwide gradually ease online gambling laws and permit this activity.

As eSports grows in popularity, betting markets will increasingly open up for these, too. And while not always associated with gambling, there is also a growing global market for fantasy sports sites, which could also prove lucrative targets for criminals.

Cybercriminals use several strategies to target the online gambling niche, including:

  • Stealing payment card details to then fund online gambling accounts. While this risk has fallen significantly due to restrictions on using credit cards to fund gambling in the UK, it remains possible.
  • Hacking into your online gambling account.
  • Posing as your online bookmaker in a phishing scam, if they know you’re a member of that site, which they could do if they’ve managed to hack the site’s database.
  • Sending emails offering “Free Spins” or other familiar offers but requiring you to sign up to a website that’s a scam from where they can steal your payment card details.

As with avoiding charitable scams, the trick here is to remain vigilant:

  • Use a Password Generator or Manager app to set hard to guess and hack passwords for all your online gambling accounts.
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA) to further secure your accounts.
  • Avoid clicking emails or text messages from bookmakers about free spins or other offers. Instead, log in to your account with that bookmaker. If the offer was legit, it’ll be waiting for you in your account.
  • Avoid clicking emails or text messages to sign up for new accounts. You may be directed to a scam site and have your details stolen. Even if you realise you’re being scammed, clicking the link may have downloaded malware onto your device.
  • Look out for red flags on unfamiliar gambling websites. Legit platforms will have a secure website – lookout for the padlock in the address bar – and have their licence details clearly displayed.

3.      Remote workers

While each business has its own policies around remote working, it’s clear that remote working in some way, shape or form is here to stay for many of us.

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses had to switch to remote working almost overnight. Given the speed at which everyone had to adapt to new working practices, security became something of an afterthought.

By now, most businesses have become better at managing security risks. They have more robust systems to manage these than they did two years ago.

Today, individuals, as remote workers, are the potential weak link. Cybercriminals have several ways to target you. These include insecure WiFi networks or targeting you with ransomware or phishing emails that maybe make it into your inbox while you’re not protected by your employer’s security systems.

It’s not just remote workers that will be a target, either. Online gamers, students, and even people choosing to have medical appointments via video calls are all attractive propositions to cybercriminals.

Vigilance is vital, and you can prevent falling victim to cybercriminals by:

  • Only using secure WiFi networks.
  • Ensuring your anti-virus software is up to date and switched on at all times.
  • Deleting any sensitive information – such as customer details – from your system when it’s no longer needed.
  • Setting up 2FA for any platforms you access for work if your employer has not already mandated you do so.

4.      New digital assets

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin continue to get significant publicity, while non-fungible tokens (NFTs) came more into the public consciousness in 2021.

Several emerging cybersecurity risks are on the horizon, including the potential for blockchains to be disrupted and NFT fraud. However, at a consumer level, the most significant risks are likely to be phishing and push payment scams, particularly if a major cryptocurrency wallet provider falls victim to a data breach.

Whether you hold any cryptocurrency or not, look out for the following to avoid falling victim to a scam:

  • Emails and text messages from unknown sources offering you Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency investments at a “too good to be true” price.
  • Phishing emails or text messages from criminals posing as your or another crypto wallet provider.
  • Emails or text messages about investing in “new” cryptocurrencies.
  • If you decide to invest in cryptocurrency in 2022, conduct thorough research into the specific cryptocurrency you wish to hold and consider seeking independent financial advice.

2022 will likely be another record year for data breaches. Don’t let them affect you!

While you can’t control if a third-party holding your data is negligent or otherwise falls victim to a cyber-attack, you are in control of the mitigation actions you can take now to minimise your risk.

Use the following as a checklist to help keep yourself safe from cybercrime in 2022:

  • Use a Password Generator or Manager to set up hard to hack passwords for all your online accounts and have different passwords everywhere you have an account.
  • Use 2FA wherever you have the option to do so.
  • Avoid using insecure WiFi networks for work or personal use.
  • Ensure you have the latest version of a leading anti-virus software installed and running at all times.
  • Avoid clicking links in emails, even if they appear to come from legitimate sources. For example, if there’s a message about your Bitcoin wallet or an offer of free spins with your online bookmaker, they’ll be there when you log in to your account.

If your data is compromised, you could be entitled to compensation

Doing all you can to minimise your risk of being a victim of cybercrime only for a third-party organisation to fall victim to a data breach that puts you at risk can be incredibly frustrating.

If this has happened to you in 2021, or if it happens to you in 2022, you could be entitled to compensation.

You can contact LawPlus here or call us on 0800 327 7575 to discuss your experience and get a free, no-obligation review of your potential data breach case.

Many fraud victims mistakenly believe they have fallen victim to a data breach. You can read this blog to discover whether you’re likely to have been a victim of data breach or fraud before contacting us. And if you’re still unsure after reading, you know where we are!

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