5 Cybersecurity Threats And How To Protect Yourself From Them
In the modern, connected world threats are everywhere. It seems like every corner of the Internet has a few bad actors looking to steal data, compromise networks, and wreak havoc on unsuspecting victims. With threats being a common thread when you go online, it makes sense to try to learn and educate yourself about the various problems you could face as you work. These threats can manifest viruses, cyber-attacks, or something much worse. Here are a few of the most common cyber security threats and how to protect yourself from them if you somehow find yourself the victim of one of them.
The first—and perhaps most sinister—threat on our list is ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malware that infects your system, encrypts your files, and holds the decryption key for ransom. Ransomware attacks are increasing – especially in industries like education, health, and finance – but they can affect regular folks like you too. The best way to insulate yourself against ransomware attacks is to ensure that you are creating regular backups of your files and following a cyber security routine. Keeping software updated and restricting permissions are also effective mitigation strategies. Being careful about what kind of links you’re following and what sort of websites are visiting will also prevent the likelihood of a successful phishing attempt that can act as a launchpad for a ransomware attack. Finally, if you do become the victim of a ransomware attack the FBI recommends that you do not pay the ransom as it only serves to embolden the attackers to keep doing what they’re doing and there is no guarantee you’ll receive the decryption key.
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Spyware gathers sensitive information about its victims (could be an individual or business) and transmits it to an entity of some kind that seeks to cause damage to them. Whether it’s for the purpose of getting pasty devices security or compromising the privacy of victims, spyware is a pretty big deal. This type of malware can monitor the content of your emails, know what’s on your hard drive, and pretty much watch over your shoulder (so to speak) as you use your computer. Keyloggers – software of their lives keystrokes on your computer keyboard and transmitting the data to a third party – are one of the worst and most damaging types of spyware. Spyware can cause issues like:
- Compromised data for your organization
- Loss of your personal files
- Possible identity theft
- Theft of data
- Privacy violation
- Stolen passwords
Using a strong antivirus program is a good way to prevent spyware. The program knows what to look for when it comes to spyware and can protect users from this insidious malware.
Both spyware and ransomware are types of malware, but the term covers a few other far less pervasive (but no less dangerous) types of malicious programs. Worms install themselves into your system’s memory and can eventually infect an entire network, spreading more malware and messing with (or deleting) your files. They also self-replicate and start overloading your system’s resources, moving swiftly to infect as many computers as possible on a network. Bots are infected computers that are being remotely controlled by hackers. They’re primarily used to send out spam emails, spread malware, access webcams/keyboards, and in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Trojans are a backdoor into your system that allows attackers to use your device as part of a botnet, spy on you, or compromise your data. Adware is usually those annoying pop-ups that serve ads that have absolutely no relevance to what you’ve been browsing online or the website you’re using. Clicking on one of the links contained in these pop-ups can lead to downloading more malware or other security problems. Avoiding sketchy websites, being vigilant about what you’re downloading, using a firewall, and running regular security scans can help keep malware at bay.
Computer viruses are a type of self-replicating malware that inserts/injects malicious code into existing files and programs. They can spread through text messages, emails, funny images, or via drive-by downloads and dangerous websites. Some signs of virus infection are a sluggish computer, strange changes to your home page, files randomly moving, and excessive crashes. Using a home antivirus software helps you avoid fraud, scams, blocks viruses, will warn users about dangerous websites, and much more. It’s one of the best overall solutions to battling viruses on your computer and other mobile devices. Newer programs optimize your system’s operation and use artificial intelligence to intelligently assess and eliminate threats before they can become a serious issue.
Phishing scams are one of the most prevalent types of scams out there. In a phishing attempt, an attacker tries to lure an unsuspecting user into either clicking a link or giving out information. Phishing is a social engineering tactic used to steal data. Most often, scammers target login credentials, credit cards, and bank account information. Usually, victims will receive an email purportedly from a trusted individual or organization. It may look like an actual email that a particular company sends out to its users. Take PayPal, for example. You may receive an email that looks exactly, eerily similar to a typical PayPal email telling you your account’s been compromised and providing a link to “verify” your information. It may even say it came from PayPal, but upon further inspection might show it came from a different domain or the link goes to a completely different, dangerous website. The link may also download and infect your system with malware, ransomware, or completely freeze/crash it. Phishing is a leaping point for larger attacks and can be incredibly dangerous. Inspecting your emails and using a common-sense approach can help prevent you from falling victim to a phishing scam. Using an antivirus/security suite can also flag potential scam emails and warn you in real-time if you’re about to fall prey to phishing or some other email scam.