The internet is a place where people can come together to share knowledge, ideas, and opinions. However, it also poses many risks for the everyday user. The world of cyber security has become increasingly complex, with new threats emerging every day. There are eight common cyber attacks that everyone should be aware of to help protect themselves online.
Phishing is when a cybercriminal poses as someone else to gain access to sensitive information. Phishing could be through an email, social media post, or even over the phone. It could involve an attachment in an email that looks legitimate but is actually a virus. It could also be a link to an illegitimate website that looks like a legitimate one.
Hacking is when someone gains access to your computer without you knowing, allowing them to steal your files and personal information. They could take screenshots of everything on the screen or track all keystrokes made to get passwords and other sensitive data. Some ways that people can protect themselves from hacking are:
- Keep devices updated with security patches for bugs,
- Use strong passwords that cybercriminals cant easily guess (it’s best not to use names or birthdays)
- Avoid public Wi-Fi unless it has the proper encryption
- Have an antivirus program installed on all devices
- Only download software through reputable websites such as CNET or Mac App Store,
- Never click suspicious links sent via email/social media messages
- Keep an eye on financial statements for any suspicious charges
Public Wi-Fi, such as the ones found at restaurants or coffee shops, usually doesn’t have security encryption to protect users from others who are using it within range of your device(s). Using public Wi-Fi leaves you susceptible to cybercriminals spying on what you’re doing online. It also makes it easy for them to steal personal information if they obtain the password. If possible, avoid accessing sensitive data when using public Wi-Fi. Try not to use social media accounts with access to credit cards/banks while browsing sites where there’s a chance someone may see your username/passwords over unsecured Wi-Fi.
Ransomware is software that infects your computer and holds it hostage for a fee to have the virus removed or decrypted. The cybercriminal will often encrypt files on your device(s), so you won’t be able to access them until they are paid in full. Doing so leaves many people helpless as there’s no guarantee that you’ll get all of your data back even after paying the ransom money. It can also take over other applications on your machine, like an email program or web browser, where it could pop up with instructions telling you what needs to happen next (like send bitcoin). There are ways to protect yourself from ransomware, such as:
- Back up important files regularly
- Use strong passwords rather than words that are easy to guess
- Never open attachments in emails or links sent via social media messages (even if they appear to be from someone you know)
- Keep an eye on your financial statements for anything suspicious
A denial-of-service (DOS) attack occurs when an attacker floods servers with traffic to prevent them from responding to requests from other users. Distributed DOS attacks are becoming more common as cybercriminals find ways around traditional defenses that protect against this type of threat. Once they work their way into your network, they can spread across devices and lock you out until you pay up with ransomware.
Also known as brute force cracking, it is an attempt method for defeating a cryptographic system by trying many passwords or passphrases until one is found which matches the required properties. Brute force cracking involves an exhaustive, repetitive process of comparing a candidate’s password against the actual password in hopes that they will match. This process goes on until an attacker finds success with legitimate data through guessing and checking.
Man-In-The-Middle Attack (MITM)
Also known as the monkey in the middle, someone intercepts traffic between two parties without either knowing about it. They redirect messages back and forth to collect sensitive information like usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, etc. The best way to protect yourself from this type of threat is to use SSL encryption whenever possible so cybercriminals cannot easily intercept your communications.
When someone uses a weak password, cybercriminals can easily guess it by brute force or dictionary attacks that work by trying thousands of possibilities until one matches the correct login credentials. A strong password should have both upper and lower case letters and symbols to make it harder for criminals to crack using these methods.
Social engineering is when cybercriminals obtain sensitive information through trickery rather than technical exploits on computers or networks. Social engineering could take place over the phone. They pretend to be an IT support representative who asks you security questions to obtain your personal details like usernames and passwords.
A drive-by download attack is when a user visits an infected website that installs malware onto their device without any interaction or knowledge of the victim. They could be browsing completely legitimate websites (in this case) and still get hit with viruses because cybercriminals use deceptive traffic patterns to attract victims.
A buffer overflow is when attackers exploit vulnerabilities within software applications, operating systems, and hardware devices by sending more data than expected. Doing so causes it to overrun its memory space and corrupt the system until either the attacker gains control over it, crashes it completely, or slows down performance significantly. Buffer overflows can be used for remote code execution, allowing hackers access deep into your network to attempt further attacks like installing ransomware on your computer.
SQL is a programming language for storing and retrieving data from databases. When cybercriminals gain access to these systems, they can then create, read, update or delete records in the database with ease because it was never designed to be accessed by malicious users. This type of attack typically requires knowledge about how the back-end works and detailed information on where the vulnerability lies within the website itself.
With the amount of information available to us at any given time, we must do our best to keep ourselves safe online. Cyber attacks can come in many different forms and will constantly be evolving. But you should know a few things about these common cyberattacks and how to prevent them if they happen to you. The most important thing for all internet users is awareness. You must know what might happen when hackers get into your computer system, or just browsing the web with an unsecured device could save you from becoming another statistic in this ever-increasing number of cybercrime victims. Don’t let yourself fall victim by following some simple steps today.