Top 5 Cyber Security Threats and How to avoid them

Cyber Security

Every year brings us new technological advancements… and with them, new levels of dependence on them.

While it’s not terrible on its own, it means that the more we rely on the digital world, the more vulnerable we become. Naturally, there are plenty of malevolent parties ready to take advantage of it. Along with technology, cyber threats also evolve constantly.

In this article, you will learn the most common and dangerous cyber security threats of this year and what measures you can take to protect yourself from them.

1. Phishing

Phishing is hardly a new threat—it was in 2004 when CNN described it as “the latest form of e-mail scam”. It still remains among the most wide-spread ones.

Phishing is conducted whenever a criminal poses as a representative of an organization that has some relation to you. It can be anything from a web forum you frequent to your bank. The perpetrator then tries to get your sensitive data out of you, such as your logins, passwords, or even credit card information.

You can surely see where it’s going.

Unfortunately, many people still fall victim to this type of scams. Often it is children and the elderly who are the easiest to cheat, so to prevent it from happening, you might want to read an Internet safety guide for parents.

The general advice here is quite simple:
  • Never send your passwords via a text message or email and never tell them to anyone.
  • If you get a message or a call from an institution like your bank asking you for any information, just tell them you’ll get in touch with them later. Then you should call that institution (preferably using the number given in official brochures because fake websites are another popular phishing technique) and tell them about what happened.
  • Never click any links in an email unless you’re 100% sure it’s from a trusted source. Even then, always hover your mouse over a hyperlink to see where it actually takes you as it may differ from the address provided in the message.

2. IoT Cyber attacks

The IoT, or the Internet of Things, is a wondrous technological achievement. Many truly amazing things rely on it like smart homes, smart cars, smart farming, exoskeletons that help people to recover from strokes or other debilitating conditions—the possibilities are beyond number.

But as more devices get connected to the Internet, it becomes less secure. In fact, security and privacy concerns are said to be among the biggest hindrances that prevent further IoT implementation.

Let’s use the example of smart homes, as they are becoming increasingly more popular. The ability to do the chores like washing, cooking, etc. by simply tapping your smartphone’s screen a few times (especially when you’re far from your home!) is very tempting and, indeed, useful.

But the more interconnected smart devices you have in your house, the more information on you they have to collect. And the more they do that, the more devastating would be the consequences of the network being hacked into.

Here are some ways to secure your IoT devices:

  • Install a VPN (a virtual private network) that will encrypt the data transfer between your devices. The best option is to get such a service on your Wi-Fi router so that all Internet-connected devices are protected at once. The best VPN providers offer detailed instructions on how to do that.
  • Get antivirus software for your PCs and smartphones and keep it updated. It will drastically reduce the possibility of hacking.
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi hotspots as it is quite easy for a middleman to intercept your traffic there. It’s a good idea to follow this piece of advice even if you don’t have a lot of smart devices but if you do, it becomes even better.

3. Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks remain one of the top cyber security threats. It shouldn’t come as a surprise because they can be really, truly catastrophic.

What ransomware does is lock the user’s device. It is achieved by encrypting information stored on the device. Then this brand of malware demands a ransom, most often in cryptocurrencies so that the money can’t be traced.

The most infamous case of ransomware was arguably the WannaCry outbreak of 2017. Thousands of computers and other devices were paralyzed. Among the worst-affected were the British NHS medical facilities, endangering many patients’ lives and personal data.

Having an antivirus definitely helps against this type of cyber threats but there are some additional tips:

  • Make sure that your OS is always updated. The reason the WannaCry attack was so successful was the fact that the victims’ Windows was unpatched. That left a dangerous vulnerability for the criminals to exploit.
  • Keep a backup of important data. You can never be too sure that there’s no new vulnerability found by hackers so it’s best to have all important stuff on your PC backed up on, for instance, a flash drive. Since it’s not connected to the Internet, it won’t be affected if a ransomware attack takes place.

4. Cryptojacking

We don’t know when (if ever) the cryptocurrency craze is going to pass but until it does, cryptojacking will remain a serious cyber security threat.

Cryptojacking is the process when an attacker uses somebody else’s computer to mine cryptocurrencies. Mining requires quite a powerful CPU and, therefore, a hefty investment. Alternatively, the criminally-minded might prefer to get an unwitting citizen to do the heavy lifting for them.

Special software allows them to use another computer’s resources for that purpose. What does it mean for those on the receiving end of this scheme? Well, slower performance, to be sure. Also, the fact that somebody’s using your device without your consent is not exactly pleasant.

Luckily, it’s not that hard to prevent that. Here’s a simple tip:

  • Install a miner blocker browser extension. It will kill off any mining requests and protect you from cryptojacking.
  • However, you need to remember to get such an extension for every browser you have (if you use more than one).

5. Cyber warfare

Cyber Security

Cyber warfare takes cyber security threats to a whole new level. It is waged between states, even though no state is going to admit it.

While calling it “warfare” may not be correct (after all, nobody gets physically hurt, thankfully), it is certainly worrisome that not only some hackers living on the fringes of cyber society engage in such practices but also governments.

Besides all the ways described above, cyberwarfare may include attacks on electric power grids, espionage, DDoS-attacks, and dispensing propaganda. Yes, there’s little we can do about massive-scale attacks but it doesn’t mean that there’s no protecting oneself from cyber warfare.

Sensible things to do:
  • Use antivirus software. It doesn’t matter if it’s John Hackerman who’s trying to get into your system or another state’s cyberarmy—an antivirus, while not a failproof solution, is going to help you. At least, a bit.
  • Use a VPN. With your traffic encrypted, you’re definitely going to be less vulnerable to cyberattacks.
  • And last but not least, use your common sense. Don’t click any suspicious links, don’t tell anyone your sensitive data such as passwords, don’t fall for propaganda, update your operating system—and you will be safer than most people.