A cyber attack is an offensive action that targets information systems, infrastructures, or personal computers devices. It uses various methods to steal or alter data on information systems.
Cyberattacks can be launched from anywhere. An individual or group can launch a cyberattack using one or more techniques, procedures or tactics.
Individuals carrying out cyber attacks are often referred to as cybercriminals or hackers. These cybercriminals either work on their own or within a group. They identify exploitable vulnerabilities within computer systems and use these vulnerabilities to launch and execute various forms of cyberattacks.
Types of Cyber Attacks.
Cyber Attacks can be classified under two major categories
- Un-targeted cyber attacks
- Targeted cyber attacks
Let’s go over these categories in more detail
1) Un-targeted cyber attacks.
Un-targeted attacks are when attackers cast a wide net and target any number of devices, services, or users they can. Any device, service, or user that has an exploitable vulnerability is fair game. They don’t care who the victim might be.
Some popular types of un-targeted attacks are:
Ransomware is a malicious program that infects computers and encrypts files. Usually, a ransom is demanded to recover the files. Even if you pay the ransom within the agreed time frame, there is no guarantee that your files will be returned. Some criminals demand exorbitant ransom, especially if they target a larger company that cannot function without its data.
Ransomware is a cyberattack that can strike anyone. Some of the more severe ransomware attacks, such as WannaCry and NotPetya, have been reported in the media. WannaCry alone caused losses of $4 billion to businesses worldwide, while NotPetya caused organizations to lose upwards of $1.2 billion. These attacks were devastating because they spread so quickly. Even devices that were not connected to the internet but were connected through a local area network to other internet-connected machines became infected.
In more recent years, Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) has seen a sharp rise in popularity. RaaS refers to ransomware authors creating do-it-yourself kits that can be used by other criminals, even those with less malware knowledge or programming skills. This makes ransomware delivery easier for any unskilled person with the help of automated RaaS tools created by black hat hackers.
Social engineering attack is the act of taking advantage of someone to gain access to their confidential information.
Imposters use social engineering attacks against unsuspecting users to gain their trust and then exploit them. Social engineering attacks are getting increasingly popular. Many social media platforms are well-known for being a source of scams. These sites include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube, and many others.
Phishing is a popular type of cybercrime in which a criminal pretends to be a person, company, or government agency to deceive or lure someone via email, text message, or phone call.
Most phishing scams are carried out via email. This is how most phishers attack. They also use text messages, phone calls, and social networks to attack.
Phishing is a term that derives its name from the verb fishing. The purpose of phishing, as it stands, is to get the victim to give personal data and other information.
2) Targeted Cyber Attacks.
Targeted attacks are when an attacker targets a specific individual or organization because they have a particular interest in them or have been paid to do so.
Targeted attacks usually need several months of preparation. Targeted attacks are often more destructive than untargeted ones because they are specially designed to target specific processes, systems, or individuals.
Some popular types of un-targeted attacks are:
Denial-of-Service (DoS) or Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks.
Denial-of-Service (DoS) or Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) are non-intrusive attacks designed to slow down or take down a targeted website. This is usually accomplished by flooding the network or application with a heavy load of fake traffic. How much fake traffic needs to be pushed to take down an application depends upon how resource-intensive the application is.
These attacks typically do not give the attacker access to the target system nor any benefit. These attacks are intended to be used as a distraction for security personnel while other attacks are carried out.
Spear Phishing is an attack method that targets specific users using tailored phishing content disguised as a familiar contact. A spear-phishing attack has the same goal as any other phishing attack: steal credentials and information, infect devices with malware, and/or gain access to their internal networks.
The attack’s specification is what makes spear-phishing unique and so effective for attackers. In order to find the correct sender, message, and call to action to target, attackers conduct extensive research. Spear phishing attacks use a variety of platforms, including email, social media, and domains. They are challenging to detect and defeat.
Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack
A Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack involves an attacker inserting themself in the communication channel between two trusting parties to eavesdrop, steal data and/or seize control of the session. Depending on the type of communication channel used, there are many ways that an attacker could carry out this attack.
An example of a MitM attack would be when an attacker on the Internet intercepts communications between clients and servers. This causes both sides to believe they are communicating with each other, but they are actually communicating with an attacker. After reading and/or manipulating the data, the attacker transparently relays the information through the communication channel to the appropriate parties.
How to prevent cyberattacks?
1) Use a firewall on your network
When an attacker attempts to gain access to your payment terminal, your firewall is your first-line defense. It’s a security system that monitors and controls network traffic based on predetermined security rules.
A firewall can quickly detect if data has been stolen from your network. If it detects anything unusual on your computer, a firewall will automatically stop the process. A firewall can also protect your computer against malware and other online threats.
Before you buy a firewall, there are several things to remember.
- Some firewalls include a built-in website filter that allows you to blocklist specific websites based upon website categories and names. This is a great option. However, make sure your firewall is capable of performing SPAM filtering tasks.
- Opt for a firewall with in-built antivirus if you do not have an antivirus program separate from your firewall.
- The firewall should have the ability to monitor encrypted SSL data.
2) All keep software updated
This is a critical step in avoiding security threats. Your systems are more likely to be accessed by cybercriminals if they have outdated software. Make sure to update your security program frequently.
You can save time by having all your software programs automatically install updates. Updated software, including the latest security patches, make it more difficult for cyber attackers to hack into your website and computer network.
Some important things to keep in mind when purchasing antivirus software.
- Reliable antivirus software must be able to protect against malware and spyware.
- If you don’t have the time to run a complete computer scan, you can opt for an antivirus program that will perform a quick scan.
- Antivirus software should be able to scan files for viruses and email attachments.
- Although it may seem common sense, many people fail to verify compatibility with their computer’s operating system. Always verify compatibility.
3) Use strong and complicated passwords
It would be best if you constantly changed default passwords and usernames as quickly as possible. Cyber attackers have access to these passwords. They can expose your business to cybercriminals if they are not changed.
It would help if you also changed your passwords and usernames every 90 calendar days. Remember, the longer a password remains unchanged, the greater the likelihood of a password being compromised. Do not send passwords or sensitive data via email.
Passwords are important. It is harder to crack passwords that combine numbers, special symbols, and letters in both uppercase or lowercase. Two-factor authentication is an option for added security.
Below are some tips to help you choose a strong password.
- To create a strong password, combine alphabetical and numeric characters.
- To make your password case sensitive, use both uppercase and lowercase.
- Consider using symbols for your password if your system allows.
- Use obscure words for your password.
- Avoid common dictionary words that are easy for people to guess.
- Never use your personal details such as name, birthdate, age as passwords
- Take advantage of a good password manager
4) Take frequent backups
Backups are a great way to protect your company from data loss. You can quickly retrieve all your files if you have backups.
Backup recovery usually requires restoring data back to its original location. The entire process takes just a few minutes. Most hosting providers now allow website owners to set up cPanel backups. Make sure you do your research.
Data backup systems can be beneficial in the following situations.
- Without a backup system, your computer system can crash at any time. You could lose many days’ worth of data.
- If your laptop or computer gets stolen, data backups are a great way to get your essential data back.
- Data backup is a way to prevent data loss from viruses.
- You can lose all of your data if hard drives or solid-state drives fail. It would be best if you had a backup plan for your data.
5) Avoid using public WiFi
Hackers can position themselves between you and the connection point. This is one of the greatest threats to free WiFi. Instead of speaking directly to the hotspot, your communication gets intercepted by the hackers. This allows them to access your information, including email addresses, phone numbers, credit card information, and business data.
To build a solid defense, you must first understand the offense. Attackers have many options. These include DDoS attacks, malware infection and man-in-the-middle interception, Brute-force password guessing, etc.
While there are many ways to combat these threats, the basic security principles remain the same. Keep your antivirus databases current, train your employees, allowlist specific ports and hosts on your firewall, protect your passwords with strong passwords, use the least privilege model within your IT environment, regularly back up your data, and constantly audit your IT systems for suspicious activity.
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