6 cyber threats you need to know

6 common cyber threats and how to avoid them

Cyber threats are everywhere in today’s online world. Whether it’s malware, ransomware, or a malicious email, failure to prepare for these cyber threats can destroy your business reputation and finances.

Here are 6 common threats and a few tips on how to avoid those threats.

Ransomware: Sharing is caring

Ransomware sweeps across the globe, taking data and plundering bank accounts. Here’s what you need to know about it.

What it does

This past year, we experienced ransomware outbreaks globally. It was unprecedented and unexpected.

First, it was WannaCry.

Then, it was Petya.

This special brand of malware wreaks havoc not “one business at a time” … but rather, “one country at a time.” It reaches into your system, encrypts your data, and then forces you to pay for the decryption code. Ransomware doesn’t just set you back financially; it leads to downtime and hurts your professional reputation in the process.

How to avoid it

Your best defense against ransomware is a comprehensive data backup solution. If your data is backed up properly, having it encrypted and taken from you is less of a nightmare.

Other useful anti-ransomware tips include:

  • Keep all systems and software up-to-date.
  • Educate your team on cyber threats.
  • Use a professional, multi-layered security solution.

Related: Facebook got you down? Here are 3 ways to boost your online security.

Phishing: Go phish

Cybercriminals don’t necessarily save phishing for the weekends. Not at all. In fact, phishing is one of the most widely-used (and most successful) cyber threats. Here’s the nitty-gritty on phishing.

What it does

If you’re going to happen upon a cyber attack, this is probably the one you’ll hit first, next, and last. And then one last time after that.

A phishing attack is unassuming, yet capable of crippling your business. It deals in data; it deals in secrets, and it deals in money.

Typically, these attacks come in the form of a malicious email. It will ask for something and pretend to be a business partner, coworker, friend, or run-of-the-mill acquaintance. Because of this, you probably won’t suspect a thing as you hand over your business on a silver platter.

How to avoid it

When it comes to phishing, you are your best ally. And if you know what to look for, then you’ll be significantly closer to avoiding any and all phishing attacks.

Here are a few best-practices to keep in mind:

  • Do not download attachments from unknown sources.
  • Carefully review the sender’s email address.
  • Analyze the timing and nature of the information request.
  • Be wary of any links contained in an email.
  • Even if it comes from an email address you know, it’s common for criminals to spoof email addresses. Because of this, make sure internal policies and procedures are followed.

Related: 5 tips for mobile security on the go

Malvertising: When no means yes

As if you didn’t hate online ads enough already … malvertising will make you hate them more, and here’s why.

What it does

Online advertisements are everywhere. They’re annoying, yet sometimes … oddly useful.

However, not every online ad is created equal. In fact, some are created with downright malicious intentions.

Malvertising, in particular, is a nasty little bugger. It can infect your computer with no click necessary. All you need to do is load the website — like that one time it happened with New York Times, BBC, and NFL.

Ever heard of those websites? Apparently, they’re pretty popular.

How to avoid it

The end goal of Malvertising typically involves ransomware. To infect your system, the malicious ad relies on vulnerabilities — in other words, outdated components.

Because of this, a few things become obvious:

  • Install all updates and patches ASAP.
  • Layer on the security.
  • Partner with a professional.

Related: 5 things that love data loss more than hackers

Brute force attacks: Pick a card, any card

Brute Force Attacks are a simple, yet highly effective guessing game. This is because it goes far beyond the human element. Here’s what you need to know about this type of cyber threat.

What it does

You might think that your personal email account isn’t important to a hacker. But that would be an incorrect assumption to make.

And you might think that a password like “bluesky123” is uncrackable. But again, that would be wrong.

With one simple tool and a few hours to spare, a hacker can run through thousands of passwords with little to no effort involved. Known as a Brute Force Attack, this specific cyber threat should be every online user’s worse fear — most because the majority of online passwords are still combinations like “password123” and “123456.”

How to avoid it

If you want to overcome a password-hacking tool, then what you need to focus on is creating solid, hard-to-crack passwords. Here are a few basics to keep in mind:

  • Use numbers and characters.
  • Phrases are ideal (but not common ones).
  • Never use one password for multiple accounts.
  • Never share passwords.
  • Steer clear of personal information.

Related: 5 online security tips most people don’t think about

Social Engineering: The smoothest operator

Even technology can be smooth talked. And to be honest, it doesn’t take much. Let’s take a deep dive into social engineering.

What it does

The simplest way to describe social engineering would be to explain it as a phishing email that plays out in real life (although phishing is also one form of social engineering).

Whether it’s in person or over the phone, the idea is that someone attempts to trick you into dropping standard security protocols. Their end goal? To get you to release sensitive information to them — whether this is a login credential, financial information, or sensitive client data.

How to avoid it

Just as you would avoid a phishing email, it’s important to analyze every situation carefully before handing over any data.

As an example, if someone comes into your office claiming to be from the internet company, don’t immediately believe them. Ask for their credentials and find some means to verify their employment.

In the case of social engineering, it’s important to remember two key things:

  1. Train your employees. Don’t just assume they know how to handle social engineering. Because they don’t. Provide them with the training they need to keep your data safe.
  2. Always remain suspicious. It’s your best defense.

Internal Threats: It came from within

Internal threats can break both your network and your heart. Guaranteed. And here’s why.

What it does

Like Verizon mentions in its latest data breach report, internal cyber threats aren’t always littered with conspiracies and massive fallouts. Instead, the majority of internal attacks involve simple malicious acts — like reading a coworker’s emails or seeing data they shouldn’t have seen.

However, just because internal threats aren’t James Bond-worthy, this doesn’t mean they can’t damage your business permanently.

And you have to remember, a security incident doesn’t have to be something done on purpose. It can also be an accident. And unfortunately, humans are known for making mistakes.

How to avoid it

It may seem like there’s nothing you can do when it comes to internal cyber threats. But that’s hardly the case.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Train your employees on network security best-practices, so they know what not to do.
  • Create detailed policies and procedures, so employees have a crystal clear outline of how to behave.
  • Rely on admin rights to limit access to sensitive data.

Cygnus Systems team

Here at Cygnus, we have decades of combined experience providing professional network security solutions to companies of all shapes and sizes. If you’d like to learn more about prominent cyber threats and how to protect yourself, check out 3 simple ways to train your staff on cybersecurity best-practices.