Cyber security can seem like such an overwhelming and pressing issue, but without knowing what actual cyber security threats are, it can feel like you’re floundering around in the dark. Cyber security threats include a whole range of vulnerabilities and cyber attacks, but here we’ll just cover some of the most common threats to your cyber security.
‘Cyber security threats’ is not some nebulous, new concept. It’s a trending term used as a catch-all to cover the various types of attacks and risks to networks, devices and computers that have existed as long as the earliest evolution of the internet. See: the Morris worm. Grouping them in this way helps to hammer home that these threats are very real, and if you are exposed to risk, then you are exposed to an attack by ransomware, phishing, DDoS or more.
For a deep dive on Cyber Security check out our Definitive Cyber Security Guide for Small to Medium Business
The Most Common Cyber Security Threats
Malware is the catch-all term for any number of malicious programs that infect your system with the intent to corrupt or steal your data. It could be a trojan, a worm, virus, spyware or ransomware, but it is almost always introduced to the system through an email attachment, or an unsafe download (often through a trusted site, in order to trick you into allowing it through your anti-virus software). It is one of the biggest and most prolific cyber security threats. User vigilance is key when preventing the attack of malware.
Sitting high on our list of cyber security threats, phishing is primarily aimed at the less-technologically savvy. A phishing attack is when you receive an email appearing to be from an organisation or person that you trust (e.g. your bank), and may refer to some vague ‘fraudulent activity’ as an urgent enticement for you to take action and click on the link inside the email. Of course, the email will lead to a dummy site that looks like the real thing, but is a trap to capture your login credentials. They have become clever and very good at mimicking the real deal, but your real bank will never ask you to enter your password via an email link, and implementing two-factor authentication ensures that even if they succeed in capturing your password, it will not be enough to access your information.
Data breaches represent some big bucks for hackers and cyber criminals, especially with the use of a malware program that can easily hold your information hostage until you cough up their asking price. Ransomware in particular has seen a huge surge as one of the more common cyber security threats, as victims will often pay the price to recover their data that hasn’t been backed up. It’s important to note that smaller businesses are often targeted more due to the relative ease of infiltration, where bigger companies like Amazon or Google will have world-class digital security protecting them from just such cyber security threats.
DDoS Attack & Botnets
A DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) and botnets often go hand in hand as double-whammy cyber security threats. A botnet is a network of bots across ‘infected’ computers that can be remotely controlled at the source. A botnet could be used in a DDoS attack, in which the network of computers all apply pressure to a targeted website or server until it essentially crashes. The hacker behind such an attack could easily be using your computer in this attack without your knowledge.
Briefly mentioned above, ransomware deserves a mention of its own, due to the high risk to small businesses. When attacked, the attacker will fully encrypt your information, locking it away and is completely inaccessible without a specific decryption key. They may threaten to completely destroy the data if their demands are not met. Ransoms are paid in cryptocurrency, which is incredibly difficult to trace, meaning most perpetrators are not prosecuted.
The above points are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cyber security threats, but do cover some common and often avoidable threats that you personally are able to protect yourself from. Common sense cyber security protocols will deter any successful phishing attempts, and block most malware downloads for example. Cyber threats are a very real part of running a business, given just how much business is conducted online now.
If you want more depth on cyber threats, we’ve delved a little bit more into the wonderful world of cyber security here.