2019’S Biggest Cyber Threats and Simple Tips on How to Avoid The - WBCB: The Valley's CW |

2019’S Biggest Cyber Threats and Simple Tips on How to Avoid Them

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Over the past decade, the Internet has evolved to become one of the most useful tools for entrepreneurs and the average citizen alike.

You can pay your bills, shop, and even build an entire business from the ground up from your computer. But, the Internet is not without its risks.

While surfing the net, users are vulnerable to cyber threats that come in many forms. While some of these are mere inconveniences, others can drastically impact your quality of life. We all remember the Equifax security breach.

Thus, it’s best to always be up to date when it comes to information on threats you may find online.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s take a look at the biggest cybersecurity concerns of 2018.

Phishing Scams

Phishing is one of the most simple ways to compromise someone’s information. Unfortunately, it’s particularly effective on users who aren’t vigilant about where they’re inputting their info.

What makes phishing so effective is that these attacks come from what users believe to be a trusted source. These could range from low-quality, “knockoff” versions of official websites to fake login pages that are barely discernible from the real thing.

Another common method is for criminals to send convincing, false emails disguised as coming from financial institutions or personal contacts. In the case of the former, these messages often urge recipients to “update their account information” for security purposes.

If they use a form through this email, their information will become compromised and be sent to the scammer waiting on the other end.

Thus, if you aren’t sure of the validity of the website or form you’re on, make sure you enter the URL manually instead of clicking a link to get there.

Ransomware

As you may be able to tell from the name, this type of cybersecurity threat is not something that you want to deal with.

In the past, getting a virus on your computer often meant slower performance, a wasted afternoon, and a phone call to a trusted friend or computer repair shop. But, things are much different today.

Ransomware encrypts all the files on an infected system and has the potential to instantly corrupt or delete them unless the victim pays a ransom to the hacker. If the victim doesn’t have the funds or doesn’t pay on time, they could lose everything.

For the average person, this isn’t the end of the world. Casualties could include family photos, personal budget spreadsheets, and maybe a few games.

For businesses, however, things take a much darker turn. If you don’t have your data properly backed up to external hard drives on a server, your entire company could collapse if you don’t pay the hacker what they’re asking for.

Thus, if you don’t have access to copies of integral company files, it’s often already too late if you find that they’ve been encrypted by a third party.

Furthermore, it’s not impossible for a hacker to take your ransom payment and then delete your files anyway. To avoid this situation entirely, constantly back up your company data to multiple locations.

Botnets

This cyber threat is an interesting one among the rest in this list.

A botnet is essentially a vast group (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of computers that are being remotely controlled by a hacker or group of hackers. These systems are then manipulated into conducting a large-scale cyber attack that uses sheer volume to succeed.

The purpose of acquiring control of such a large number of computers is to either overwhelm a security system or whittle away at it through a serious of continuous attacks. In some cases, botnets can be used to take down entire websites, a practice commonly referred to as DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks.

The best way to combat a botnet is to prevent your computer from becoming infected in the first place. Practices such as frequently updating your anti-virus software and maintaining safe browsing habits can help minimize the risk that your machine will be used during a botnet attack.

DDoS Attacks

As previously mentioned, DDoS attacks are used to prevent anyone from gaining access to a particular website by overloading the servers that it uses.

Since e-commerce is such a popular method for companies to use to generate revenue, this type of cyber threat can be particularly dangerous for entrepreneurs.

If a business makes most (or all) of its sales online, they’re looking at thousands (or maybe even millions) of dollars in lost revenue for every day that consumers can’t access the company’s site.

Since DDoS attacks are so large-scale, it can be difficult to effectively defend against them. The best way to handle one is to alert your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or hosting company immediately once you realize you’re under attack.

They’ll be able to cut all traffic to your company’s site and then get you back online while preventing the same malicious connections from hindering you again.

Viruses

Computer viruses have been a problem since the mid-1980s, and they’re likely not going away anytime soon. One of the most infamous examples of how problematic a virus can be is the iconic “ILOVEYOU” virus of May 2004.

Unfortunately, as technology develops, so do these malicious programs. Getting a computer virus in 2019 will rarely be harmless.

Just like how an actual virus can weaken your immune system, a computer virus can pave the way for more crippling cyber threats to infect your device. But, they can cause plenty of issues on their own.

They can slow down the performance of your system by replicating themselves in massive quantities, steal your personal/financial information, and even infect systems on the same network that don’t have the proper protection.

Luckily, anti-virus software does the majority of the work. The rest, however, is up to you.

By staying away from sketchy-looking webpages, not installing unfamiliar software, and validating every email attachment you receive can go a long way toward keeping your system safe.

Forced Cryptocurrency Mining

Also known as “cyrptojacking,” this practice is used by hackers to turn infected computers into their own personal data mines for acquiring cryptocurrency.

This can cause harsh slowdowns that will drastically affect your computer’s productivity. What’s worse is that it’s not readily apparent that your computer is being forced to run a script that mines for cryptocurrency.

Unlike most other cyber threats, this one wants to compromise your computer’s processing power instead of your personal or financial information. But, that doesn’t make it any less problematic.

This type of hacking has also become one of the most lucrative forms of cybercrime, and this is expected to remain true as 2019 goes on.

Shadow IT

This term refers to an employee’s use of IT software that has not been approved by that company’s IT department.

Despite the name, there often aren’t bad intentions behind its use. A common scenario would be for an employee to use third-party software to help do their job more efficiently (organization, Excel support, cloud solutions, etc.).

But, having this type of software active and running on a company network poses an enormous risk to the business. Even if an employee is using trusted software, the source they obtained it from may not have been legitimate and their system could be compromised without their knowledge.

If your company lacks quality IT support, you might need to outsource. Check out what the team at Be Structured has to say about it.

The second danger here is that the firm’s IT department will have no record or information about the malicious program. Therefore, they can’t actively monitor access logs for any signs of foul play.

This, of course, paves the way for a Doomsday scenario to take place: an employee’s computer with infected, unapproved software infects every other computer on the network.

This could lead to massive ransomware and botnet attacks that can cripple a company’s productivity.

Since workers are always on the grind to save more time, people may be more tempted in 2019 than before to use unapproved software.

Cyber Threats Can Seem Intimidating

But, with the proper precautions, you’ll be well on your way toward keeping your system safe from the above cyber threats.

Want to learn more about what you need to know during 2019? Check out our news section for the latest updates.

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