An introduction to cybersecurity basics. Did you know that UK residents are more likely to experience cybercrime than any other type of crime?

In 2020, attackers began to use more sophisticated techniques and ruthlessly adapted to the Coronavirus pandemic with phishing scams exploiting people working remotely and spending time online.

More than £5 million was stolen from individuals due to Covid-19 related scams and £16 million to online shopping fraud since lockdown started in the UK. Now more than ever, small and medium sized businesses are also suffering untold losses due to data breaches, ransomware, and phishing attacks.

The scale and complexity of today’s cybersecurity threats continue to grow. While it may not be possible to eradicate the problem entirely, we can all take steps to strengthen our digital defences. This begins with understanding the core concepts of protecting your data and devices.

The following guide provides an overview of 15 cyber threats that everyone should know, so read on and discover what you need to know about cybercrime.

1. Cybercrime

So, what exactly is cybercrime? Put simply, the term refers to any illegal activity that targets or utilises a computer, network, or networked device. It can be conducted by an individual or an organisation. The former could be an amateur hacker and the latter might be an expert team with advanced capabilities.

Almost all cybercrime focuses on monetary gain, but it can also be done for personal or political reasons. Here are some common types of cybercrime:

  • Extortion
  • Identity theft
  • Malware and ransomware
  • Online scams and fraud
  • Phishing or pharming

2. Antivirus

Installing an antivirus on your desktop or mobile is a fundamental cybersecurity measure. The software comprises programs that detect, eliminate, and prevent any known computer virus. It can also protect against threats such as adware, trojans, and worms.

Antivirus tools constantly monitor your connections and storage drives in search of malware. This originally involved checking for matches to an expanding library of definitions. As criminals found loopholes, developers created techniques that enabled antivirus tools to recognise threats they hadn’t seen before.

3. Malware

An umbrella term for any harmful program or code, malware aims to damage, disable, or control your device. It can acquire, corrupt, or delete private information. Malware can also hijack computer functions and secretly track your activity. The internet and email are primary sources of malicious software.

4. Ransomware

This destructive malware is currently one of the most relevant cybersecurity basics to know about. In short, ransomware uses encryption to prevent targets from accessing their files or system. The method is extremely effective and victims often see no option but to pay the ransom in hopes that their data will be decrypted.

Of course, this is the last thing you should do, as it only encourages criminals to carry out more attacks.

5. Adware

True to its name, adware is designed to infiltrate your device so that it can display advertisements on your screen. This form of malware deceives victims by appearing as trustworthy or installing itself through a different program. Adware is typically characterised by dubious content, intrusive features, and unauthorised software installations.

6. Spyware

The final type of malware in our cybersecurity basics guide, spyware infects your device to collect information. Depending on the attacker’s objectives, the program may be used to view your browsing activity, credentials, messages, payment details or any other private data. Spyware is particularly adept at remaining invisible to victims.

7. Hacker

The act of hacking inherently seeks to compromise a device or network. However, not all hacking attempts are ill-intended. Hackers can also be hobbyists, enthusiasts or professionals offering services such as penetration testing. On the other side of the law are the cybercriminals and unsavoury characters who hack for malicious purposes.

This is where we can identify another distinction. Most hacks are technical in nature. They’re performed by someone proficient in modifying hardware or software beyond its intended use. The second type of hack involves misleading the victim with psychology and is known as social engineering.

8. Phishing

Phishing is the leading form of social engineering. Victims are ‘reeled in’ with an email or message that appears to be sent by a trustworthy party. Several things can happen when it’s opened. The typical phishing scam entails an alarming message that demands the recipient take action, such as resetting their password.

A link to an imitation website where unsuspecting victims will enter their credentials is included in the text. Their details are then captured and sold or used to commit other crimes.

9. Data Breach

When a business is hit with a cyberattack, criminals can leverage the resulting vulnerability to create a data breach. This means illegally accessing company devices or networks to steal the private information stored within. The subsequent damages can be catastrophic. Data breaches regularly force organisations to permanently close their doors.

A well-crafted phishing attack is all it takes. Data breaches can also be caused by malware, spyware, and misconfigured access controls. These attempts are all-too-often successful due to insufficient cybersecurity training and procedures.

Companies that invest in technology and employ more advanced defences against cyber threats suffer less data breaches, so one way to address these issues is to partner with an external team that provides Manged services and cyber security consultancy.

Many small and medium-sized London businesses believe that they simply don’t have systems or data worth hacking. However, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), those SMEs were subject to almost 10,000 cyber attacks a day in 2019. Failing to take cyber security seriously could easily ruin your business and reputation.

10. Spam

Not to be confused with the luncheon meat, spam is any type of unsolicited digital marketing. Chances are that the nuisance has manifested on your screen at some point, be it as an advertisement for miracle pills or an email from a questionable billionaire. Regardless, all spam is best avoided as it can contain malware or other serious threats.

In order to stay vigilant your organisation needs to invest in cybersecurity awareness training.

11. Scam

Whether it’s a bogus ‘get rich quick’ scheme or a dishonest online retailer, we can all name at least one type of scam. A particularly common example that’s seldom mentioned is the scam call. These are typically automated and illegal. Successful scam calls steal money and private information from victims.

Ensure you do not hand over any personal, financial information or login details to anyone over the phone and don’t risk being scammed.

Keeping your business safe and secure is fundamental, so it’s important to educate employees on the different types of scams to look out for.

12. Social Engineering

Let’s take a moment to clarify social engineering. The term refers to an effort to persuade someone to take a predetermined action. Cybercriminals use social engineering methods to acquire credentials, money or sensitive details that facilitate a security breach. The attacker may employ psychological tactics such as:

  • Authority
  • Consistency
  • Consensus
  • Reciprocity
  • Scarcity
  • Manipulation

13. Password Manager

When it comes to basics of security, protecting your login details from cybersecurity threats like social engineering, password managers are the go-to option. These software applications offer a safe and reliable way to manage your credentials. Most password managers utilise encryption and feature generators to automatically create strong passwords.

14. VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) improves your online privacy by establishing an encrypted connection between your devices and the internet. There are numerous reasons to use a VPN. For instance, you may want to stay safe on public Wi-Fi or when sharing files over peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. VPNs also make it more difficult to track your activity.

15. Endpoint Protection

What is endpoint protection? The final entry in our list of cybersecurity basics refers to the process of safeguarding endpoints against threats. An endpoint is any device that’s physically connected to a network, including laptops, smartphones, and servers. These are all potential soft spots that are open to exploitation when unsecured.

Modern endpoint protection uses methods such as machine learning, behavioural analysis, exploit mitigation, and cloud-based management to effectively secure vulnerable network components.

What’s next?

Understanding these basics of security can be immensely beneficial to your online safety and privacy. Remember to put your knowledge into practice and implement the strategies that you’ve learned. There’s no better time to get serious about cyber security, especially if you are running a business. Implementing security awareness training can provide a number of benefits to your enterprise by educating employees on signs to look out for and how to avoid being phished or scammed.

At totality services we take cyber security seriously. Our commitment and focus is always to keep your business, IT infrastructure, data and confidential information safe and secure, today and tomorrow.

If you’d like to find out more about how to keep your business critical data safe and secure, get in touch today.

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