Many internet users consider themselves safe because they assume that cybercriminals only target large corporations or the very wealthy. If you find yourself falling into this misconception, now is the time to reconsider your stance. All internet users are at risk of cybercrime, so all internet users should learn how to protect themselves against online threats.
A look at cybercrime statistics from the last two years paints an alarming picture about online safety. Check out some sobering statistics that appear in a CSO article from security expert and author Josh Fruhlinger:
- The cost of phishing attacks is approximately $17,700 per minute
- Phishing attacks make up more than 80% of reported cybercrime
- In more than half of security breaches, there was a patch available for the vulnerability that the criminal exploited, but the user had failed to apply it
- The vast majority of malware (94%) is delivered by email
Types of Cyberthreats
The first thing that is important to understand are the types of threats that you, as an individual using the internet, may be facing. Here are five types of cybersecurity threats to watch out for:
Malware, which is short for malicious software, is a category that includes spyware, ransomware, viruses, and worms. Hackers seek to install these types of programs on computers via links or emails sent out to unsuspecting targets. Once installed, the malware can cause damage in a variety of manners, such as blocking access or gathering confidential information.
Ransomware fits into the category above but deserves some more attention. With ransomware attacks, cybercriminals lock or encrypt the victim’s data. They threaten to either permanently block the data or make it public, unless the target capitulates to their ransom demands.
Social engineering refers to when cybercriminals use manipulation of human psychology to achieve their aims. The most common type of social engineering attack is phishing, which is when hackers send emails posing as a legitimate source in order to trick the target into downloading malware or disclosing sensitive information. A related term, “spear phishing,” refers to phishing attacks that are targeted exclusively at privileged users (e.g., system administrators or C-level executives).
Denial of services attacks make systems inoperable by flooding them with massive amounts of traffic. These attacks often incorporate the use of multiple infected devices, often without the knowledge of the device owners.
Attacks on cloud computing systems are common due to the unique vulnerabilities that these systems hold. Hackers seek out unsecured cloud servers then exploit them by planting ransomware, stealing sensitive data, using the systems for cryptojacking, and/or recruiting the systems into their DDoS attacks.
Keeping Your Information Safe Online
So how can you protect yourself against cybercrime? Here are some helpful tips to implement:
- Always install software updates as soon as they are available. Updates frequently contain very valuable security patches—patches made in response to active threats.
- Use strong, unique passwords for every single account. It can be difficult both to come up with unique passwords and to remember them. We recommend employing a password generator and a secure password storage system—many internet browsers offer these or make them available as addons.
- Only connect to secure Wi-Fi networks. You should especially ensure that your home network is well secured.
- Be cautious about how you use your social media accounts. It can be tempting to allow outside apps access, but this is often how hackers get ahold of your information.
- Make sure that your family is on the same page when it comes to internet security. Consider creating a set of internet safety guidelines to help your children understand what safe internet usage looks like.
When it comes to staying safe online, there are a lot of factors and there are many threats of which you should be aware. Our last tip is simply that: be aware. Try to regularly read up on the latest threats and strategies employed by cybercriminals. Awareness can go a long way in protecting yourself against cybercrime.