17 Common Cyber Threats and How to Deal with Them

With cybersecurity threats more commonplace than ever before, it’s important to be aware of what you can do to make sure that this does not happen to you or your business. Hackers might walk away with your personal data, or worse – steal data belonging to your business customers. Securing yourself and your business against cyber threats begins with being aware of your enemy, which involves knowing the different types of security threats that your business is most likely to be targeted by.

Keep reading to find out more about some of the most common computer and network security threats that your business may face and you should be aware of, along with best practices to avoid and deal with them.

Viruses

Viruses are one of the most common and well-known types of cyberattacks and have been around for a very long time. Viruses refer to malicious software or malware that is attached to legitimate documents or programs and can spread throughout a device or even an entire system. Just like human viruses are unable to spread without some criteria being met, such as coughing or sneezing in somebody’s direction, software viruses are also unable to spread without some level of human interaction, such as downloading an application or opening a file. Since viruses are attached to executable files within programs, users need to run the infected program for the virus to be spread.

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Worms

A worm is very similar to a virus in that worms are also a type of malicious program that will usually be hidden in or a part of a legitimate program. They are able to spread throughout any infected devices and take over entire systems. The main difference between a virus and a worm is that while a virus requires some level of human interaction with the program in order for the virus to spread, worms can be spread without this. They spread from contaminated media such as memory cards or USB drives to other devices through exploiting system security vulnerabilities.

Trojan Horse

Another type of cyber threat that generally comes under the ‘computer virus’ umbrella is the Trojan horse. This attack is slightly different to worms and viruses in that at the first glance, it appears to be software that is useful or legitimate. However, there is malicious code hidden within it. One of the main differences between Trojan horses and worms and viruses is that, unlike viruses and worms, Trojan horses are unable to infect other files to self-replicate.

Man in the Middle Attack

A man-in-the-middle or MitM attack involves the interception of data communication between two sides by a cyber attacker. They can either steal sensitive information or modify the data without either party being aware of this before it reaches the recipient. There are two main categories of this attack.

The first is where the hacker exploits information security vulnerabilities of Wi-Fi systems. This is commonly used in public Wi-Fi hotspots, or in cases where a home or office Wi-Fi network is set up with a weak password. The second type of attack is known as a ‘man in the browser’ attack. With this attack, hackers will typically use a Trojan horse to manipulate victims into clicking on a link that installs malware or to run software that is infected.

Denial of Service or Distributed Denial of Service Attack

DoS and DDoS attacks are two of the most serious cyber threats that a company can face, particularly when it comes to DDoS attacks. While the two types of attack are similar, they are not the same. The one major thing that they have in common is that both are used to flood the system with an overload of requests, which ultimately shuts it down. The main difference between the two is that while a DoS attack will only target one location such as one PC, a DDoS attack targets the entire system that the PC is within, making it a much larger security issue.

SQL Injection

An SQL injection attack involves a hacker using malicious code to hit the system database that is targeted. If successful, the hacker will gain access to often sensitive data that was not intended to be publicly available such as login information or personal details. If the attack is successful, hackers are able to manipulate the database even further by gaining admin privileges, deleting tables, or viewing user lists.

Cross-Site Scripting

Cross-site scripting or XSS is a type of cyberattack that hijacks a web session by targeting the cookies. This attack involves injecting malicious code into a device by exploiting security vulnerabilities of an app or website. Apps written with JavaScript tend to be more vulnerable to XSS attacks compared to others.

Rootkit

In some cases, cybercriminals want to do more than just steal money or sensitive data – they want to gain remote access and control over a device, or even an entire network. A cybersecurity threat that will allow them to do this, if successful, is a rootkit. Rather than being a single software, it refers to a combination of different tools including antivirus disablers, keyloggers, and password-stealing tools that are hidden in legitimate software by the hacker. When a user installs and runs the software on the device, they will also unknowingly install the rootkit, which is then activated by the hacker.

Adware

Adware refers to a type of malware that may not be quite as dangerous as some of the other cyber security threats listed here, but is worth being aware of. Adware will typically display online advertisements to users to generate revenue for attackers. However, while the basic form is not that much of a threat, there are some types of adware that go further than this can redirect users to unsafe sites or even install unwanted programs or malware on the device.

Spyware

Spyware is a type of malicious software that does exactly as you would expect from the name. It is designed to idly sit on the device or system and collect information about the user that is often confidential, which is then relayed to the hacker. For example, keyloggers are a type of spyware that records the user’s keystrokes as they type, which then provides the hacker with access to private information such as login details and passwords.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a particularly dangerous threat to businesses since not only is there a risk of a data breach, but it can also be extremely expensive to rectify. With ransomware, hackers access sensitive data and hold the network or device hostage, refusing to give the access back until you pay them a certain sum.

In these attacks, the hacker delivers a payload that is hidden within a legitimate file, which then blocks access to the data. Essentially, the victim is required to pay the ransom or face a data breach, or the data being deleted completely. However, one of the most insidious things about this type of attack is that even if the victim pays the ransom, there is no guarantee that the data will not be breached or that the hacker will even give the access back.

Find out more about ransomware attacks and countermeasures from St. Bonaventure University.

Whale Fraud

This type of cyberattack typically involves the hacker targeting a high-ranking individual within the company – often the CFO or CEO. They will then target somebody who has access to sensitive information and manipulate them into making an ‘urgent’ payment to the attacker’s account. In this situation, hackers will usually count on the target being too afraid to say no to their manager or being too busy to check if the request is legitimate.

Phishing Emails

If like most people you use email regularly, then you are probably already familiar with phishing emails, which are a common type of social engineering attack. Phishing attacks involve hackers impersonating legitimate organizations or individuals in an attempt to manipulate the recipient into taking certain actions. Most often, the goal is to get the user to open a link that contains malware which then allows the hacker to steal personal information, credit card and other financial details, usernames, and passwords, and more. This is one of the most common cybersecurity threats faced by both businesses and individuals.

Spear Phishing

As phishing attacks have become more and more commonplace, more people have become aware of it, making this attack no longer as effective as it once was. Most of the time, phishing attempts are quite easy to recognize, and most people are now aware of the strategies to use to check whether or not a request is legitimate. For example, your bank is unlikely to send you any links that you have not specifically requested or are already aware of. To get around this, hackers use spear phishing, which takes things further. This social engineering goes more in-depth and involves a thorough investigation of the victim, which in turn increases the chance of a successful manipulation.

Brute Force or Dictionary Attacks

Brute force attacks and dictionary attacks are cyber threats that involve hackers repeatedly attempting to log into a target’s account network by trying different passwords. The good news is that these attacks are no longer as successful these days, as more people understand the importance of setting stronger passwords, and tools to protect against them, such as password generators and managers, are more accessible. Along with this, they are slow to perform, making them ineffective against passwords that are ten or more characters long with a combination of special characters, numbers, and upper- and lower-case characters.

Advanced Persistent Threats

An advanced persistent threat is a cyberattack type where the hacker gains unauthorized access to a computer network. This then allows them to observe, hijack, and steal information and sensitive data without being detected. This type of attack is very effective and very dangerous, which is why they are often used by legitimate organizations or government agencies to steal information such as industry secrets or military activity secrets. Unlike ransomware, DDoS attacks, and most malware types, this type of cyberattack does not lead to a ‘tangible’ cyber threat and can be undetected for a long time.

Eavesdropping Attack

Eavesdropping, also known as snooping or sniffing, is a type of security threat where hackers attempt to access and steal data that is transmitted between mobile devices, computers, and IoT devices that are connected to an unsecured network. It is usually executed by installing Wi-Fi ‘sniffers’ that monitor the network and intercept the data as it is passed through.

How to Deal with Cyber Threats

These are some of the most common cybersecurity threats that all individuals and organizations today should be aware of. However, awareness isn’t enough in a world where hacking and cyberattacks are only becoming more common. It’s important to know how to deal with the threat of cyberattacks and prevent having your personal or company data stolen.

While each attack is different, the first line of defense involves installing a reputable and strong security software such as an anti-malware or anti-virus program, which will help you detect any malicious software that may have made its way to your device or network, and prevent you from installing or running infected files, programs and more.

For companies, it is important to have an established incident response strategy in place that you can go to in the event of a suspected or actual data breach. In many cases, hackers are ready to figure out how they can exploit even the smallest vulnerabilities in the system. Many companies find that using ethical hackers, professionals who test systems to figure out how cyber attackers might be able to exploit them is a useful way to determine which strategies need to be put in place for security and protection.

Finally, staying up to date is key as hackers are constantly looking for new ways to find and exploit vulnerabilities in even the strongest security systems.

With the world becoming more connected and more data than ever before being gathered, it has never been more important for both individuals and organizations to be aware of the cyber threats that they face.

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Keshav is Tech blogger. He contributes to the Blogging, Gadgets, Social Media and Tech News section on TheTechJuice.

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