The most common cybersecurity threats and how to prevent them

You might think you are sufficiently protected from all sorts of dangers that lurk on the internet. However, your perception of this subject may change after you take a closer look at the statistics. According to Statista, the number of exposed records due to data breaches reached 155 million in the United States alone. It is a massive amount of individuals affected by data exposures.

To prevent this from happening to you, your loved ones, or your business, you should learn about the most common cybersecurity threats and know what you can do to avoid them. From malware, phishing attacks, and social engineering to man-in-the-middle attacks and password theft — all of these security risks can make your life much more difficult. Below, we explain what malware and social engineering are and share some effective methods to stop them. Let’s get started.

Malware

Malware is a type of software that can be used for various illegal purposes, including identity theft, credit card fraud, and ransomware. It can come in multiple forms, including viruses, worms, Trojans, backdoors, spyware, and rootkits. Malware can also be a part of a botnet — a network of computers controlled by cybercriminals.

While there are numerous types of malware, they generally fall into two categories: active (also known as running) and passive (also known as dormant). Active malware is the one that is actively doing something ‘bad’ to your device, while passive malware only waits for its trigger to perform malicious actions.

Some examples of active malware include email attachments with embedded malware, malicious links in emails and social media posts, spam messages, and bogus updates for programs installed on your device. On the other hand, passive malware includes spyware, keyloggers, rootkits, and trojans. Some examples of passive malware include malware hidden in legitimate files and on websites with a shady reputation (e.g., torrents or porn sites).

The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert to avoid these types of malware. Here are some tips that will help you stay safe:

Use trusted apps and sources — it’s great to automate various processes and use technology to your advantage, but make sure you’re safe while doing so. For example, you can receive and send faxes from Mac but you should do it only with reputable software and apps like faxburner.com.

Always keep your operating systems and programs updated — It’s always better to use the latest version of your favorite apps and programs. This way, your computer or mobile device will be equipped with the latest security updates and patches.

Install antivirus software on your devices — Antivirus solutions can detect and remove all kinds of malware from your devices. However, if you want more advanced protection, you should consider installing an anti-malware solution too. This kind of software can detect and block new types of malware before they reach your computer.

Avoid clicking on suspicious links and emails — If you receive an email or link that you haven’t requested or doesn’t seem quite right — delete it! It might be an attempt to infect your device with malicious software. Also, avoid opening any attachments sent via email unless you know who sent it and trust both the sender and the file itself.

Never click on pop-up ads or banners — Cybercriminals often use pop-ups as tricks to force users to visit malicious sites with malware downloads. If you want to see a website, go directly through a bookmark or a link from someone you trust instead of following a pop-up ad.

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Social Engineering

Social engineering is a type of attack that uses personal information to trick users into performing specific actions that compromise their security and privacy, such as providing passwords or confidential information. Below are some of the most popular social engineering methods:

Spear phishing — this type of phishing attack is used by cybercriminals who send emails that appear to come from someone a user knows or trusts (such as an IT department) but actually contain links to malicious websites or attachments with malicious software. Spear phishing is more effective than regular phishing because targets are more likely to believe it came from a person they know instead of a stranger. 

Smishing — this type of attack sends text messages with malicious links or attachments to users’ mobile phones. These attacks are especially dangerous because once people click on the links, they give away their login credentials to cybercriminals who can use them to access bank accounts or other confidential accounts through victims’ mobile devices.

Baiting — this type of attack uses attractive offers to lure people into clicking on links to malicious websites. It is also sometimes called “clickjacking” or “clicking fraud” because cybercriminals can use baiting to make money from their victims by clicking on adverts.

Below, we have prepared tips on how to avoid social engineering:

Be careful with what you share online — You should view your social media profiles as a public space where anyone can see your photos and posts. It is highly likely that someone will use your social media profile to steal your identity.

Don’t open email attachments from unknown senders — Cybercriminals often send malicious attachments to users pretending to be known people or companies. These attachments are often infected with malware.

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Cybersecurity threats and the consequences of data breaches and data exposures continue to grow, and they affect people and companies of all sizes and industries. If you want to protect your data from falling into the wrong hands, you should follow the tips on how to avoid cybersecurity threats we’ve outlined above.

By taking simple precautions such as maintaining your operating systems or installing antivirus software, you can keep your devices secure from malware, phishing attacks, and social engineering.

Security threats are everywhere, and you should always be aware of them. By educating yourself and others, you can significantly reduce the risks associated with using the internet. Remember: a little bit of prevention is better than a lot of cure!

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