Sometimes it’s the worst things that can happen that become the eye-opening best things that effect positive change. The year 2012 saw numerous high-profile data breaches, epic hacks, full-on hacktivism and lots of major identity theft ring busts. The best news is the public is more aware, which means they are better equipped to protect themselves and law enforcement is well prepared to take down criminals. Individuals, companies and governments worldwide all have their eyes open and are taking action to protect themselves.

High-Profile Breaches

LinkedIn, Yahoo and many others were hacked—and hacked BIG. Unpatched system vulnerabilities and simple passwords were the common denominator in many of these hacks. It’s not enough to have antivirus protection; you also need antispyware, antiphishing, a firewall, updated critical security patches in your operating system and strong passwords that can’t easily be cracked. The good news is all these things are easy to do.

Epic Hack:

Wired reporter Matt Honan recounts how his connected digital life was used to destroy all his data. From this we learn that even a technologist is vulnerable and that there is no shortage of lessons to be learned from his experience.

“In many ways, this was all my fault. In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed,” he says. “First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad and MacBook.”

The chance of this happening to you are slim, but knowing it’s possible will make you better prepared.

Hactivism Grows Up

Hackers have evolved significantly over the past 20 years. At first “hacker” meant someone who was inquisitive and tested the boundaries of technology. But then in the late ‘90s, hacker became a bad word as a result of a few hackers going too far and the media latching onto the title. Last year saw groups like Anonymous and others take action not just to disrupt, but also to right what they considered wrong. While their actions are often illegal, many feel they have evolved into a sort of voice for those that don’t have one.

The Long Arm of the Law

There isn’t a week that goes by that news reports of federal law enforcement, assisted by state, local and even foreign governments, takes down a carder ring or organized web mob responsible for stealing hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. It was the year when the law got smart, savvy and as sophisticated as the criminal hackers, and that’s the best news of all!

Robert Siciliano, is a personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto and author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! . Disclosures

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