09/05/2015 8:38 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

4 Top Security Trends Every Internet User Needs To Know

Benjamin Howell via Getty Images

For Rita, the internet is her life. Her work involves being online all day. She does most of her bill payments and purchases, from groceries to clothing, online. The internet is where she builds and maintains relationships, finds her entertainment, reads the news, and researches her interests. She uses multiple devices including a laptop, tablet and mobile phone to connect from various locations, over wired and wireless connections.

As she lives a highly traceable life on the internet, she expects a high level of security from the software on her devices. However, she reads news about security breaches all the time, and tries to stay informed about new threats so that she can update her security practices accordingly. So what are the security trends that she, and the organisations and businesses she frequents online, need to be aware of?

1. Cybercrimes will increase in scope and sophistication.

McAfee estimates that the likely annual cost to the global economy from cybercrime is more than US$445 billion, including both the gains to criminals and the costs to companies for recovery and defence. Attacks by cybercriminals will get more sophisticated and resourceful, and their stories more cunning and plausible. Instead of targeting individuals, they will increasingly target networks -- both human and the Internet of Things -- often with difficult-to-ascertain total losses. More alarmingly, global terrorists will increasingly use their internet expertise to recruit foot soldiers. These organisations will look to use unsuspecting non-sympathisers and their unsecured devices as instruments to further their media and other objectives. As the physical location of layers of application data recedes from Rita, so will her control over their security and potential abuse.

While her approach to defending the security of her information will remain mostly reactive, Rita will need to evolve into a sceptical, self-reliant digital person. She should adopt best practices to keep her passwords secret, different and difficult to guess; expose minimal personal information on websites; and increasingly customise security settings in the various portals she frequents.

2. Cybersecurity measures will make the internet less free

While the direct costs of cybercrime and cyber-terrorism are clear, Rita will increasingly bear secondary costs. In the physical world, pre-boarding security checks are forever different after 9/11. The shopping mall attack in Nigeria has resulted in increased frisking at stores the world over. Public transit systems have increased security checks after they were targeted a few years ago.

Similarly, internet interactions may be suboptimal because of a few well-planned and devastating attacks, creating fear along with the exuberance elicited by powerful technology. We have come to accept multifactor authentications and user identification procedures in most transaction portals. These involve extra keystrokes and mouse clicks we would have avoided if some distributed denial of service and phishing attacks had not hurt early digital commerce adopters. As cyber-attacks have increasing power and impact, the prohibitive measures we adopt to avoid them will cumulatively cost more in terms of convenience offered by the internet.

3. Access mechanisms will evolve

Rita may already be struggling to keep her identities consistent and passwords memorable as more and more services go online. In the near future, she will likely use an identity management application that will keep all her passwords stored and accessible with a click, and social media management tools that store identities and passwords for use across multiple sites and sessions.

These digital identity management portals will be prone to hacking, phishing, and denial of service attacks, and the risk may be too high for Rita. Increasingly, she will use biometric verification to maintain her digital privacy, and her quest for high availability, reliability, and scalability will take her to global leaders in each service. For businesses, this means most digital offerings will show an even more pronounced winner-takes-all network effect, and any service breach or compromise would be devastating for new customer acquisition.

4. Privacy will become a premium service

As Rita becomes more affluent over time, she likely will be willing to pay more for her privacy. For example, if a site offers a free service that tracks her digital actions for future advertisements versus a paid service that guarantees no tracking, she may pay for the guaranteed unobtrusiveness. As user analytics pervade every sphere of digital life, the services earning the most subscription revenue may be the ones that voluntarily withhold intrusive intelligence capabilities.

New connectivity uses will continue to make Rita's life on the internet even more fun and convenient. However, in order to prepare for the coming trends affecting security and privacy on the internet, she, along with organisations operating online, will have to proactively prepare and adopt sound security solutions.

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