Boss Lady

Threats you need to guard against in the digital world

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Our lives are becoming more digital every year with the emergence of new software, new technologies, and new working practices. This is a train that has left the station in the direction of the future. It is not likely to change anytime soon. But there is a dark side to this growth. Cybercrime, which has been part of the digital world from its inception, has developed in parallel with advances and is now taking advantage of an extremely high currency of data available. You only have to look at the alarming cyber security stats to get an idea of the extent of the issue.

Whether it is your personal computer or business network the chances are that it’s at risk of being hacked or infected by a disruptive and damaging virus if it is not properly and adequately protected. Protection can come in the form of malware software, various types, and sometimes multiple types are required to ensure adequate cover, knowledge of scams and types of viruses along with the best practices to employ, and also the use of IT professionals or Cyber-Security degrees to defend yourself against these ever-present threats. Below we take a look at some of the most common cyber threats we face and how to guard against them.

Viruses

Online and offline viruses are not as different as you might imagine. Both must hijack a host to activate and spread. In a biological virus the host is usually a cell, with a computer virus it’s an application. This malicious software will latch onto an application code, reproduce and spread in the background of your computer while it is running. The purpose of such a virus ranges from profit-seeking to personal amusement and can be extremely damaging to your business or computer network.

There are a number of different types of virus that range in purpose and severity. There are resident and non resident viruses, boot sector viruses, web scripting viruses, and many more. A Macro Virus is one in which macro applications in Microsoft Office and/or PDF files are infected. Those careful about opening untrustworthy applications from the internet often don’t know that a Macro Virus can be embedded in the app itself and may have already been executed. To make matters worse polymorphic viruses can slightly change its own source code to avoid detection, so extra vigilance is needed.

To defend against such viruses it’s useful to employ the most up to date malware protection, however, for corporate networks , it might be better to use endpoint security that includes an anti-spyware, personal firewall, application control and other styles of host intrusion prevention, as well as the latest malware. Viruses tend to exploit weaknesses in the system so make sure that your hardware is patched and updated.

Malware

Viruses and Malware are commonly used interchangeably but they are technically different.

While a virus is a specific type of malware that latches on to computer code and replicates Malware itself refers to any type of malicious software. Malware may have several objectives such as to trick a victim into providing personal data for identity theft, stealing consumer credit card details or other financial data, or assuming control of multiple computers to launch attacks against other networks or infect networks to mine them for cryptocurrency.

There are five main types of malware to look out for: Worms, Ransomware, Scareware, Adware, And Fileless Malware. This Malware can infect not only desktops, laptops, and servers, but also smartphones. Worms are stand-alone programs that self-replicate and spread across a network. Usually, they pose as an email attachment and once opened can spread quickly. Ransomware effectively blackmails a user, usually for cryptocurrency, to regain control of their computer. Scareware attempts to frighten victims into buying fake anti-virus software and harvesting credit card details by presenting them with their own passwords and financial data. Adware and spyware work together to collect sensitive data by logging users keystrokes. Finally, fileless Malware does not hide in code but in the computer’s memory thereby avoiding detection – it can have a number of functions.

The best ways to guard against this horrendous Malware is firstly to implement simple best practice advice. Password management and role-based access to data and apps can limit the chances of hackers gaining access to your system and the damage caused once there. Other options include, using a range of anti-Malware protection, signature-based scanning, and IT security professionals to safe-guard your network.

Hackers

Hacking is a form of cybercrime different from viruses and malware in that it is performed by and individual. Hackers are able to access almost any digital device or network using a range of techniques. Their purposes can be criminal, to steal financial data for instance, for protest, or just for fun. Techniques employed in this practice include depositing Malware in a user interaction or embedding a malicious attachment in an email. This is often known as ‘social engineering.’

Many reasons for hacking exist and the practice occurs at many levels, from individuals to nation states. Some attempt to gain financial rewards by breaking into personal computers or company networks; others are merely looking for credibility within their collective and only intend to leave their mark, like a graffiti tag. Then there are nation states who frequently employ the practice of hacking to steal intelligence or destabilise an infrastructure. China and Russia are widely believed to be responsible for such attacks, including attempts to influence foreign elections. For notable hacktivist groups, along with some of their more famous undertakings, see Anonymous, WikiLeaks, and LulzSec.

There are a number of strategies to protect you or your business from hackers. Best practices include knowing that no financial institution will ever ask for credit card details or sensitive information by email. Always keep your system updated with the latest operating system, download apps from official stores, and install the latest malware. This should be enough to keep the hackers out.

Phishing

Phishing fraud is one of the oldest and still most prevalent forms of cyberattack dating back to the early 1990s. It defines a process whereby a fraudster will masquerade as an official trusted company or agency. The intention is to trick the email recipient into believing that they are receiving an official message and therefore click a link or download an attachment. What distinguishes phishing from other types of hacking is the attapet to pose as an official and trusted company or agency.

While a phishing scam has the common element of poses as a familiar agency there are many type of scam that fall under this broad umbrella term. The most common type is the one in which the attacker attempts to convince the victim to hand over sensitive information by inputting it into an email or attachment. It could be a username, password, or financial details. A simplified version of this is to masquerade as a major bank or financial institution, and spamming millions of customers at once hoping some will bite. Other versions offer email attachments that will install malware or Spyware onto your device and gather sensitive information over time.

There are some best practices to know about if you want to avoid falling for phishing scams. Firstly it’s a good idea to check out what a phishing email looks like – examples can be found online. Some of the most effective ways to avoid becoming a phishing victim is to adopt a mindset that is also cautious about the email received from trusted sources and reluctant to enter sensitive information into suspicious URLs.

Scams

The internet is continuing to grow and mature as we enter a new decade and the scammers and hackers are developing with it. We face threats from classic phishing scams to fake ticket vendors who seek to exploit our sympathetic, fear,or greed. Most scams only work because of ignorance to how they operate, so with a little inside knowledge, and up to date security, it should be easy to stay safe.

The Nigerian prince scam is one of the oldest scams on the internet. It came to prominence in the 1990s. It starts with an email. The email contains an offer from a Nigerian Prince, investor, or government official offering a lucrative opportunity. To take part all you need to do is provide some credit card details to receive payment or send a small portion of the money for investment. Of course this is all a fraud and the victim loses out either way.

Ticket fraud is another popular online scam to look out for. In this one consumers are tricked into purchasing fake tickets for a sporting event or concert. Often the events are large scale sell-out events in which fraudsters can take advantage of high demand. This also encourages a higher asking price for tickets. The tickets sent to customers usually have forged barcodes are duplicate copies, or simply don’t arrive. To avoid buying scam tickets, always buy directly from the official vendor. By early to avoid disappointment and never pay over the face value asking price – doing so is taking a risk.

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