Does the news have you concerned about your cybersecurity or the cybersecurity of your country? Do you feel as if the environment online is getting more hostile or restrictive to your wants and needs? Do you feel as if the varying groups online vying for control of the Internet are stepping up their efforts to gain dominance and that this trend cannot be healthily sustained?

If you have these concerns, they are well founded. The internet has immense influence and involvement with the daily lives of most people in developed countries, and thousands to millions of people log in for the first time every day. Technology exists that allows organizations to collect massive amounts of data on unsuspecting users and mine it for their own purposes. Entire infrastructure frameworks can be shut down if the wrong person takes control through the internet. A war fought online isn’t so far off.

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Here are the three major players that you need to know about:

Governments

Do you trust the United States government? In the name of fighting crime and terrorism, a number of wide-reaching initiatives have been launched which by any account invade your privacy, and in the opinions of some, act illegally to spy on citizens and foreigners alike. Programs such as those revealed by Snowden are now a major concern of the internet and the world, and it can be expected that citizens and governments alike are making efforts to counter these invasive initiatives. People like yourself are using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) more often, which are services that connect a device to an offsite server using an encrypted connection so their IP address is hidden. It’s quite interesting to know that the same program that lets people use Netflix from outside the United States is what people use to protect themselves from government snooping.

If you do trust the United States to protect you and keep the best interests of your data at heart, then do you think you can trust the governments of China and North Korea? Both are known to be interested in online weapons, and both countries employ hackers (to varying degrees of success) to launch state-sponsored attacks against businesses and enemy governments. They’ll be happy to use anything they can and that includes your information. It’s quite possible they have a file on you already.

Major Corporations

We don’t mean places such as Bank of America or General Electric here, we’re talking about the tech giants such as Google and Facebook who have an active interest in your data and make every effort to collect it. What are they doing with it, and what are they planning on doing with it? For the most part, they’ve been secretive so far.

They currently aren’t actually doing too much that is dangerous with our data (that we know of), and many of them have many a show of standing up to the government to the best of their legal ability and not giving them user data. Yet what is stopping them? What if Apple (or an incompetent or corrupt executive), for reasons unknown, decides to dump everything it has on people all at once? We already saw what happened with the Ashley Madison hacks, and Ashley Madison was only a moderate player online.

Could Facebook hold us hostage by virtue of our private conversations? Is there anything about us a major online player doesn’t know? These are sobering questions with often terrifying answers, and it is likely only a matter of time before we have to confront this reality.

Cybercriminals

One normally wouldn’t imagine a bunch of cybercriminals as something to consider in a major online battle, but cybercriminals are potentially the most dangerous threat online when it comes to your information. Companies are interested in the long term and keeping a good rapport with their customers. They can cause damage, but then there will be repercussions. Governments are (sometimes) answerable to the people and have to at least pretend to follow rules and guidelines.

Cybercriminal organizations are not bound by such restrictions, and cybercrime pays well if you are good at it, meaning that often the best talent goes to work doing everything in their power to steal your data from you or organizations that also have it. They’ve already been effective, and they’re getting more sophisticated in their techniques. They can be bought, and they cannot be trusted. In a world where data can be copied in just a few seconds, that’s a major concern.

Defending yourself against basic hackers is simple enough in that all you need is a strong enough deterrent, but what if a group finds a higher calling or long term purpose? Enough organization and they might start playing the long game as well. If that is the case, we need to start preparing better defenses to avoid the crossfire in the upcoming cyberwar.

In the ongoing struggle for your data, we can’t really be certain who will come out on top next. It’s easiest to think of it as a tug of war with the stakes higher than you can imagine. The internet is only going to get more control over our lives, and the best thing we can do is to try to not get stuck in the crossfire. You might even want to learn more about the subject or sign up for a cybersecurity course.

Do you have any particular concerns about the mounting tension online? Is there a particular threat you fear more than the others? How do you think all of this will resolve itself? We’d love to hear what you have to say on the matter, so please join the conversation and share with your friends.

Read more by Jen Martinson at Secure Thoughts