Cybersecurity risks and how to prevent them effectively

The development of the internet has changed the  way  people go about their daily lives, from the way they interact to the way they do  business. It has allowed people to explore new aspects of their lives and even to stay connected in the time when it was impossible to maintain normal social interactions. The unexpected spread of Covid 19 pandemic forced us to spend even more of our time online as people had to work or study remotely, a large number of physical businesses had to close their doors and an even larger number of businesses had to undergo digital transformation and transfer their operations online. This would be significantly harder to survive if there were no internet to make everything easier. 

Unfortunately these advantages do come with great challenges in the form of cyber security risks. Cybersecurity has become an ever growing problem that is affecting anyone who has a device and the access to the network. From individuals to businesses and governments, nobody is safe. Just think back on how many times you have received suspicious emails asking you to click on some link because you won a reward or to reply to the email by providing your confidential data so they can transfer you your inheritance?

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Governments, businesses and organizations around the world have started implementing cybersecurity protocols meant to protect them and their users through legislation, multi-factor verification, browser fingerprinting, password policy and other tools as doing nothing is no longer an option. 

What are the most common cybersecurity risks

The first step to take in order to mitigate and prevent cyber attacks is to know what you are fighting against.  Any deliberate exploitation of devices, systems and/or networks falls under the category of cyber crime which is why there are so many different types of it. 

  1. Malware – These types of attacks are one of the oldest types of cybercrime there is, but that doesn’t mean they are not relevant anymore. It still remains one of the most common types as the fraudsters are well aware how much profit a well executed malware attack can bring which is why they keep making it more and more sophisticated. Malware happens when cyber criminals use an intrusive malicious software like computer viruses, worms orTrojan horse to harm or exploit the target by stealing information, denying access to programs or even deleting files. 

  2. Ransomware – Even though ransomware is a type of malware, it deserves a special mention due to its lucrative nature. It operates by installing itself on victims’ systems or a network and then encrypting it. This blocks the victim from using or even accessing it and the only way they can get the access back is by paying ransom. Once the ransom is paid, cyber criminals provide them with the code or software the victim needs  in order to unlock the data. The victim is faced with a difficult decision to pay the ransom or to take the risk, and according to the research most of the targets refuse to negotiate with cyber criminals as only around a quarter of ransomware victims made payments to hackers.

  3. Phishing Attacks – While most of the other cybersecurity risks rely on technology, phishing scams are designed to exploit people’s innate tendency to trust and not to second guess. It happens when a target receives an email, text or phone call from an allegedly trusted source which requests them to provide sensitive data, such as a password or account details. This can be a text coming from your “bank” claiming your account will be suspended unless you click on a link and then enter your internet banking credentials to reactivate your account. This link brings you to a phishing website which then steals your confidential data. Luckily most of the phishing attacks can be prevented by implementing common sense and cybersecurity awareness. Instead of clicking the link in the text or email, you can simply search for the official company website and go through there. 

  4. Cross Site Attack – With this type of the attacks, hackers target a vulnerable website, usually one missing an encryption and install a malicious code on it that either collects user information to use it for their financial gain or disrupt standard services. 

  5. MitM Attack – Man-in-the-Middle happens when a cyber criminal intercepts a session between client and host pretending to be both legitimate participants to make it look like a normal session is underway. Think of it like someone opening an envelope with your bank statement to take all the confidential details and then sealing the envelope so you wouldn’t notice it has been tampered with. They usually target the communication with financial institutions or e-commerce sites so they can get access to your payment details. 

  6. Account Takeover – This type of identity theft is the most common with the ecommerce sites. It happens when a fraudster successfully gets unauthorized access to the victim’s account after which they can use it for fraudulent purposes. First step they usually take is to change the account’s password so the owner wouldn’t be able to access it and then they make fraudulent purchases and change the shipping address. Between April 2020 and June 2021, the number of account takeover attempts grew by 307 percent. In most cases this will result in a chargeback claim to the merchant once the victim discovers an unauthorized transaction. Account takeover also brings danger of further damage to the victim, especially if they reuse their password on various sites as that allows fraudsters to gain access to other accounts.

How to prevent cybersecurity risks?

Idea of all the cybersecurity threats can be daunting and leave individuals and businesses to struggle to find efficient ways to protect their clients and themselves. Cybersecurity does not have to be scary or complicated. You just need to know what steps to take and most importantly to stay up to date with the threats.

  • Use cybersecurity tools

Just by using firewall and antivirus protection you will be able to prevent different types of malware attacks. It will block unsecure service and stop any attempt of malicious software being downloaded to your device. 

In addition to them, businesses and organizations should implement additional cybersecurity measures like browser fingerprinting, device fingerprinting, data enrichment and email and social media lookup tools to stop the attacks before they can cause any damage.

  • Make sure your software and systems are fully up to date

Cyber criminals often try to find a weakness in your systems or software to gain access to you, but software developers always try to stay one step ahead of them which is why they often release new updates. These updates are meant to patch any security vulnerabilities and to improve the function of that software. 

  • Educate yourself and your employees

Raising user awareness is an important step in the fight against cybersecurity threats. How can anyone stay safe if they don’t know what they are fighting against? By educating yourself and your employees if you have them, and providing regular cybersecurity awareness training you can significantly reduce the risk of becoming a victim especially when it comes to phishing attacks. Everyone needs to be aware of the danger of clicking on the wrong link, oversharing on social media, using unsecured WiFi connection, reusing the passwords or keeping them too simple. 

  • Introduce the good password hygiene

Good password hygiene needs to become a second nature to everyone from individuals to businesses as they are literally the keys to our life. Having the same password throughout different websites is like giving a key to your life to the fraudsters as they will be able to access all of your accounts by managing to get their hands on your password. Research conducted in the first quarter of 2021 showed an average of 26,000 breached passwords every day which ranged from quiet days with “only” 7,300 breached passwords to the incredible 182,000 breached passwords in one day. This is why all businesses need to start by not only implementing password policy for all the users and employees but also by introducing multi-factor verification to add the additional level of protection.

  • Back up your systems and data

This is the most effective way to fight against ransomware. Cybercriminals might hold your data for ransom, but if you have a backup of that data you won’t need to pay them to decrypt them and you can continue with normal business operations. Keep it separated from your network and ensure the login credentials are different to avoid backup also being affected by the attack. Hopefully you will never have to use the backup you have, but as they say: “better safe than sorry”. Just make sure you update the backup regularly as you don’t want something to happen only to discover the data you have is no longer relevant. 

It can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to preventing cybersecurity risk of affecting you or your business. With hearing about the different cyber attacks happening and seeing the overwhelming amount of information it is hard to believe that you can do anything to prevent them. But waiting for something to happen before acting is no longer the option. Truth is that you might become a target, but by learning about the cyber threats you are facing and following the steps above you will not become a victim.