Merriam-Webster recently announced that surreal — “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream” had been chosen as its word of the year, and we’d have to agree. This year sure was remarkable and bizarre — no less so when it came to tech threats, which marred the digital landscape at an alarming rate: According to ZDNet, there were approximately 3,000 data breaches that publicly exposed more than 2 billion records. We here at Frontier IT in Colorado Springs highlight, in no particular order, five of 2016’s most epic data breaches some of the worst tech disasters of the year — and what your business needs to do to stay safe in the coming year.

 

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  • SSNs of hundreds of thousands of U.S. taxpayers. Tax-time thieves were back at it again in 2016, using personally identifiable data stolen elsewhere to electronically file fraudulent tax returns, according to Fortune’s Jonathan Chew. “Around 464,000 unique social security numbers were involved, and of that total, 101,000 SSNs were used to successfully access an E-file PIN,” Chew reported.

 

  • Lab results of tens of thousands of patients. Hackers broke into MyQuest by Care360, an internet app owned by Quest Diagnostics, and stole personal information from 34,000 users, according to David Oliver of U.S. News & World Report. Among the data stolen: “names, birthdates, lab results and telephone numbers,” Oliver reported.

 

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  • Sensitive Olympian medical records. Medical records of Olympic athletes were released by cyber criminal group Fancy Bear this fall when it hacked the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). “The hack, which revealed therapeutic exemption use details of stars such as American four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles as well as tennis sisters Venus and Serena Williams, has led to criticism of WADA’s security systems,” according to CNN reporters Amanda Davies and James Masters.

 

 

  • The entirety of a hospital’s data. You may not have heard about this one in the news, but it’s chilling. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif., was the target of a ransomware attack in February, according to the the Los Angeles Times’ Richard Winton. Hackers held its data hostage until they received $17,000 or 40 bitcoin. The hospital paid the ransom before consulting the Los Angeles Police Department, the Times reported, citing law enforcement sources. In sum, the hospital was without its data for 10 days, forcing providers to rely on pen, paper and fax machines. Though a hospital spokesman said patient care and records weren’t compromised, the incident was concerning. “I have never heard of this kind of attack trying to shut down a hospital,” cybersecurity expert Phil Lieberman told the Times. “This puts lives at risk, and it is sickening to see such an act. Health management systems are beginning to tighten their security.”

 

It seems likely that hackers will be just as busy and enterprising — if not more so — in 2017. How’s a small business to stay safe and afloat in such a threatening digital world? We recommend partnering with a managed service provider, or MSP, that can offer you the IT services your business needs (like disaster recovery planning and server/network monitoring) in an affordable, à la carte fashion.

If you’re interested in talking to an expert about the immense value an MSP can bring to your business, drop us a line. Cyber security is a passion of ours, and like all passionate professionals, we love talking about what we do.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, safe and successful 2017.

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