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We all know what a threat is. It is basically an activity that represents a possible danger. This may be an object or a person who possesses intent and capability to harm. If someone told you, “I am going to kill you”, that is an example of a threat. But do we know about cyber threats? Are all people familiar with them? What harm can it cause to us and how can we prevent them? The purpose of this blog is to help you get familiarized with these 3 top cyber threats and help to prevent them from happening.

First, let me explain to you what a cyber threat is. A cyber threat is a malicious act by a hacker to illegally steal your data such as personal information, passwords, photos, videos, bank accounts, or even access to your computer. A cyber threat can cause harm.

Now, let’s talk about the top 3 cyber threats and how you prevent them.

1. Phishing Attack

This is the most popular type of cyber threat. According to Phishing Facts | Statistics on Phishing and other Cyber Threats, 70% of breaches associated with a nation-state or state-affiliated actors involved phishing in 2018. 

A phishing attack is when a hacker attempts to steal your data by including a link to your email, chat or text messages. Once you click the link, the hacker can steal your data and have access to your system. 

Hackers will use interesting headlines, legitimate emails and the names of popular companies to trick you into giving out your information. As long as we can stay one step ahead, we can protect ourselves from these types of attacks

Preventions:

  • Never ever click unexpected or suspicious links on your emails! The moment you open that link, it’s like you are opening yourself to infection.
  • Know that your email is coming from a legitimate source. If you are not expecting it, do not open it. A phone call to the person can be a quick way to find out if it was meant to be sent to you.
  • Be familiar with the common phishing language such as ‘verify your account’, ‘contest winner’, and ‘billing problems’.
  • Use firewalls and antivirus software.
  • Always keep your system up-to-date!
  • Think before you click!

2. Social Engineering Attack

It is the psychological manipulation of people into performing an action to give away their sensitive information.

I personally experienced this kind of attack. I was inside the mall when someone came up to me and introduced himself as an employee from a popular bank. He looked pleasant and dressed very well. He also spoke in a professional and articulate way. At first glance, my impression of him was that he was in fact, a bank employee. 

He asked me a number of questions about my bank account. He also asked to see my ATM card and specifically the CVV (card verification value) number written behind my card. He was holding a pen and paper. I found this man very suspicious and of course, I didn’t let him see my card, nor did I answer any of his questions. 

When I arrived home, I did some research on other cases (like mine) in my area. I discovered that a number of people were reportedly hacking bank accounts by pretending to be a bank employee and asking people for their sensitive information like CVV and account numbers.

Like me, you can also avoid being a victim by:

  • Keeping your personal information about yourself or your organization private
  • Do not reveal any of your financial information to either someone in person or over the phone 
  • If you believe you gave your financial information, contact your financial institution immediately and close any accounts that may have been compromised.
  • Change your password immediately if you might have revealed it. 
  • Consider reporting the case to the police to stop this from happening.

3. Ransomware

You might be familiar with the word “ransom”. You might be thinking that it is a sum of money or other payment demanded or paid for the release of a prisoner. But what exactly is ransomware? 

Ransomware is one of the most successful threats that cybercriminals are using up to now. You might hear cases of people suddenly being unable to access their own social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. 

Ransomware is basically when a cybercriminal takes control of your computer and declines your access to your own files. You are warned that your info, photos or videos will be published in public unless you pay a large amount of money to stop them (ransom).

Hackers or cybercriminals do this by spreading the threat via email (phishing attacks), websites and attaching files on your computer.

Ransomware is a serious threat that can be spread over a network or spread through Wi-Fi. There’s a lot of money in ransomware. The average cost of a ransomware attack on businesses is $133,000 and Ransomware has cost businesses more than $8 billion in the past year (2019).

According to WIRED UK – Future Science, Culture & Technology News and Reviews, the increasing number of government agencies, public and financial institutions and electricity companies – all critical parts of daily life – suffered IT system shutdowns as a result of ransomware attacks. They chose these because cybercriminals are opportunists. They target the organizations that they believe are most likely to produce the biggest payback. It also said that in this year (2020), ransomware attacks will take aim at public infrastructure.

We need to prevent these ransomware attacks so that we don’t fall victim to cybercrime.

You can protect yourself from ransomware by:

  • Restoring your files from a known good backup like cloud backup services. Restoration is the fastest way to regain access to your data.
  • Do not install suspicious software. Always read reviews about the software you are planning to install.
  • Always check if you are browsing on a safe website.
  • If your computer asked you to save your password, say NO. If you saved your passwords on a local machine, they will be able to look into that file and look at every single password that you saved on that machine.
  • Always update! Make sure your systems and software are updated with relevant patches.
  • Do not pay the ransom. Sometimes, even if the ransom is paid, there is no guarantee that you will be able to regain access to your files. Remember that they are cybercriminals. They can trick you in many ways.

These cyber threats can infect not just your hard drive. The cyber threats are becoming more powerful and can take your entire network and result in business disruptions. These threats need to be taken seriously as all of us can be a victim.

If you want more information on how you can protect yourself and your business from Cyber Threats, get in touch with New Zealand Computing Solutions | IT Services and Software.

What’s your experience regarding cyber threats? 

Let me know and let’s see how we can prevent them.

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