Our modern digital world is full of unique processes and functions that improve the quality of life and work. However, these technologies also pose some dangers, and no business or IT organization is safe from these threats.
Cybercriminals are using more and more sophisticated techniques to wage damaging campaigns. As a result, most organizations feel helpless in protecting their data and critical assets from malicious attacks.
In this post, we'll talk about what a cyber threat looks like. And we'll give you 10 simple ways you can protect yourself from them.
What are Cyber Threats
Cyber threats are malicious attacks designed to steal data, disrupt operations, or damage digital assets. Attackers target individuals and companies with the goal of making a profit.
These threats come in many forms, including viruses, malware, data breaches, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, phishing, ransomware, and Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks, among others.
Why Protect Yourself from Cybersecurity Threats?
Cyber threats are serious business and can have far-reaching effects that disrupt many areas of modern life. For example, the recent ransomware attacks on the food and fuel supply chains caused price increases and shortages.
The potential for significant damage is real when the attacks are aimed at networks, phone systems, healthcare, water treatment plants, electrical grids, or government operations.
Cyber threats are even a matter of national security and a high priority for our current administration.
On a smaller scale, the threat to individuals is also severe. Any data breach leaking personal information can quickly lead to identity theft, fraud, and financial ruin. These threats are growing in severity and increasing in numbers.
Businesses need to understand that it doesn’t just “happen to someone else”. Cyber threats pose a risk to every business, no matter how small. The time to act to protect your business from harm is now.
Where Do Cyber Threats Come From?
Attackers are not just one breed of animal we need to worry about. Unfortunately, these threats come from different types of people and groups with varying agendas.
Unfortunately, many of the most damaging attacks are backed by hostile countries. Although not as common, terrorist groups may also be involved in cyberterrorism.
Organized crime frequently uses digital threats to gather information, hold companies hostage for ransom, and steal data for identity theft and fraud. Law enforcement has linked many credit card scams to organized crime.
Hackers, hacktivists, and disgruntled insiders are also responsible for various digital attacks. For example, sometimes hackers will contact a company employee and hire or blackmail them into becoming accomplices.
This all sounds pretty sophisticated, but anyone – even small businesses – can fall prey to these attacks.
Types of Cyber Threats
There is a huge number of cyber threat types. But for many attacks, the overarching concept is social engineering.
Social engineering is when hackers manipulate people into ignoring standard security procedures and best practices so the hackers can gain authorized access to systems and data.
Following are the main types of threats, many of which involve social engineering.
Malware is malicious software designed to:
- Spy on the user
- Steal credentials
- Alter, copy, and delete files
- Change permissions
- Interrupt network operations
- Cause other kinds of damage
There are dozens of malware types and variants, many of them available on the dark web for sale or trade.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks overload a network or system. This disruption of the flow of traffic creates a window of opportunity where the cybercriminals can gain access to steal data or install malicious software.
Phishing is when bad actors use legitimate-looking emails to trick recipients into clicking a link or visiting a malicious website.
When the user visits the site or clicks the link, malware is automatically downloaded. Sometimes private information entered into hacked forms is collected and used.
Ransomware attacks involve the encryption of a company's or individual's files. The hacker then holds the locked data hostage in demand for a ransom payment. Many companies choose not to pay.
Others do pay, but they find that the promise of a decrypter key is empty, and the key doesn't work to restore the data.
New software and devices often come with built-in flaws. With zero-day exploits, cybercriminals exploit these flaws before companies have the time to patch the vulnerabilities.
Man-in-the-middle attacks usually affect unsecured Wi-Fi networks at public places like coffee shops, airports, and hotels.
The hacker monitors the network for connections, then uses special software to steal keystrokes, obtain logins, and take complete control of users’ devices.
Credential stuffing is when threat actors use stolen passwords from one account and try to use them on another account.
This is a common attack because many people reuse the same password on their digital accounts. Credential stuffing is one of many types of password attacks criminals use to break into users’ online accounts.
Dozens of data breaches have exposed millions of Americans’ personal information on the dark web. These breaches have led to fraud and personal identity theft.
IoT Device Threats
Because IoT devices are relatively new technologies, many of them have not been appropriately secured. Because of this, IoT devices provide an entry point for hackers to gain access to a home or company network.
10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Cyber Threats
Although the threats are real and imminent, you can take steps to protect yourself and your business. Following are 10 of the best things you can do to ward off cyberattacks.
Make cybersecurity a top priority
This is the simplest yet most effective thing you can do to protect yourself and your business. Be aware of the cyberattacks you're most vulnerable to, and take specific steps to avoid them.
If you run an online business, your best bet is to purchase a high quality monitoring service that can keep a close eye on things and resolve any issues that arise before they become catastrophic events.
Update with security patches
Make sure you keep all your systems, hardware, and software updated with the latest security patches.
This is one of the most important reasons to renew your software licenses annually. For the vast majority of plugins and software, license renewal pays for important things like security patch development and implementation.
Train your team
Make sure your staff understands the way phishing attacks and social engineering work. Then make sure they know how to respond in the event your business is attacked.
Consider holding a company-wide workshop or purchasing an online course for your team. For example, Coursera offers an excellent and affordable cyber threat intelligence course.
Don't click links
While the majority of email and SMS links are legitimate, it's extremely difficult to tell the difference between real and phishing links.
Therefore, you should make it a habit to never click a link or download an attachment in an email or SMS message. Instead, visit the URL directly. Just type the address into your browser, and you should be able to see whether the link is honest.
Check out your sender
Always verify the sender of your emails before taking any action. You can do this by:
- Checking the from email for misspellings
- Verifying whether the address and display name are they same (they should be)
You can also check out the sender's DMARC record. Fraudmarc has a DMARC Record Check tool that's free to use.
Update your devices
Consider installing plugins, extensions, and apps to keep your devices updated with the latest antivirus/anti-malware software.
There are all kinds of tools out there, many of which are free to use. Check out PCmag's 2022 list of free antivirus software here.
Get serious about your passwords
Implement strong password requirements and procedures like two-factor authentication. If possible, move to biometrics like fingerprint logins, and away from passwords altogether.
And never, ever reuse passwords.
Backup your data
In case of a ransomware attack, make sure you have a solid backup of all your data. And store your backups offsite. Following are several WordPress backup plugins we recommend:
- WP Time Capsule
- WP Staging
- WP Stagecoach
- Duplicator Pro (by Snapcreek)
Avoid unsecured networks
Ideally, you should always use a virtual private network (VPN) when connecting with public networks. A VPN sets up an encrypted, private connection between your device and the public network.
It's a good practice to avoid unsecured public networks in general.
Encrypt your data
You should encrypt all the data in your systems and on your devices. Data encryption helps protect your private and sensitive information. It also makes the communication between client apps and servers much more secure.
When your data is encrypted, even if unauthorized people or entities get their hands on your data, they'll be unable to read it.
So much of our personal information is readily available online, and there are always cyber risks to worry about.
Make cybersecurity one of your main priorities to protect your online business and your entire digital world.
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