It’s risky to assume you’ll never suffer a hack.
Data breaches alone will strip global businesses of some $2.1 trillion by the end of this year.
Phishing attacks, malware, and computer viruses sit among 2019’s biggest threats — but there are ways to strengthen your network security:
- Multi-factor authentication puts an obstacle in a perpetrator’s path
- Password encryption hides sensitive data
- Up-to-date anti-virus software can alert you to a looming risk
Still, the first line of defense against anything is to know of its existence.
And as the IT industry prepares for a record twelve-months of data breaches and network hacks, it’s time you made yourself aware of today’s cyber threats so that you can ensure your IT security stands up to scrutiny.
Let’s look at the top eight risks in 2019.
Cyber Threat #1: Viruses & Worms
Computer viruses and worms are hostile programs intent on infecting central systems. They corrupt local data and ultimately, render your entire network inoperable.
A computer virus finds its way into your network by attaching itself to an idle ‘host file’ that activates following a specific event: perhaps you click a link to open it.
A worm, on the other hand, is a more general term for software that can infect spreadsheets and other files on your system.
Much like in humans; when a virus enters a system, it replicates and infects other files before spreading to any unprotected computer — and beware: a virus or worm often lays the foundations for more widespread cyber attacks.
Cyber Threat #2: Phishing Attacks
Phishing attacks use personal communications to wean passwords, bank details, and other sensitive data out of unsuspecting individuals.
An email typically arrives from a trusted source — a bank, PayPal, your own CEO — preying on good human nature to convince you to share something you shouldn’t.
The email likely includes a link.
You click it, then arrive at what looks like an official form. You fill in a few lines, click ‘submit’ … and the hacker has succeeded — unless you exercise caution by avoiding clicking external links, and instead enter any URLs manually to stop the scammer in his tracks.
Cyber Threat #3: Drive-by Downloads
So the best way to avoid a virus is by never clicking a link, right?
Well, that used to work — but not anymore.
Hackers have developed more sophisticated tools that allow a web browser, an app, even an operating system, to download malicious code from the web without the user ever taking an action.
And to perform a drive-by download, an attacker simply needs to spin-up a website that looks as good as the real thing, but that’s really just a hotbed of malware — each trying to find a vulnerability in your network security.
You can prevent drive-bys downloads by keeping your browser version up-to-date; or use tools that prevent you from navigating to high-risk websites in the first place.
Cyber Threat #4: Ransomware
Ransomware sits as one of the most feared security threats. Why?
Two-thirds of businesses affected by ransomware have lost either part or all of their data — without hope of retrieval.
Ransomware works like a virus by infecting central networks, then encrypts data and threatens to delete it: unless you, the victim, pay a colossal ransom.
Running up-to-date anti-virus software will protect against an attack. Better still, if you backup your data, you can ensure your business never has to pay a ransom — no matter who infiltrates your network.
Cyber Threat #5: DDoS
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks inundate a host server with requests for data, ultimately crashing a website.
They damage a business by taking it offline, which can devastate firms that rely on their online presence: eCommerce companies and digital services can lose millions in revenue after just a few days offline.
Firewalls are robust protective measures that can block attempted traffic surges. However, if you do suffer a DDoS-style hack, then you’ll need to work with your server operator to bring your site back online.
Cyber Threat #6: Botnets
Botnets are the level up from worms and computer viruses.
They comprise a network of infected machines that an attacker can use to coordinate a remote attack on an immense scale: the biggest botnets include millions of devices, and they can deploy DDoS attacks at will.
Hackers can even instruct botnets to attack supposedly secure systems: individual bots avoid detection by running ‘low-frequency attacks’ — with the combined force culminating in an incredible show of strength to take networks offline.
You can prevent your system from becoming part of the botnet with standard anti-virus software. However, if an attacker directs a botnet at your web server, you’ll need advanced security systems to repel the aggressor.
Cyber Threat #7: APT Threats
Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) happen when undetected code infiltrates your IT network and remains there indefinitely.
As APTs aren’t intent on inflicting damage….
— at least, not immediately.
Instead, they lay dormant on your servers, harvesting information like security details and financial data. And once they’ve found the necessary credentials, they’ll penetrate deeper to compromise your entire network — even navigating between connected servers.
APTs are, by their very nature, difficult to detect.
That said there are telltale signs that give away their presence, so a competent systems administrator will notice unusual patterns in data access.
And should they identify an attack, make sure your IT team isolates critical data, thus limiting systems access until the situation is resolved.
Cyber Threat #8: Cryptojacking
Even as crypto-mania subsides (for now, at least), hackers continue to engineer ways of using the hardware resources on private devices for personal financial gain.
As if an attacker can trick a victim into downloading malicious code onto a computer, they can hijack CPU processing power to mine Bitcoin.
So, while you sit there wondering why your computer performance has ground to a halt, the thief happily profits.
But businesses can mitigate the threat by monitoring CPU usage and flagging spikes of activity — plus, given cryptojacking relies on worms: adequate anti-virus software should keep your systems safe.
2020 Vision: Staying Ahead of the Game
It’s impossible to predict how cyber threats will evolve, but one thing’s for sure: developments in network security will always struggle to keep pace with rapidly advancing hacker techniques.
So — to stay ahead of the game, it’s vital you:
- Keep your hardware and software up-to-date
- Actively monitor your network activity
- Use anti-virus solutions on every device
….as in this ongoing game of cyber cat-and-mouse: exercising extreme caution is the only way to avoid being caught out.
Keep your network secure with advanced anti-virus software, remote monitoring, and on-call IT support — give us a call on 207-236-0021 to chat about the best approach for your business.