What is Cyber Attack ?
A Cyber Attack is deliberate exploitation of computer systems, technology-dependent enterprises and networks. Cyber Attack use malicious code to alter computer code, logic or data, resulting in disruptive consequences that can compromise data and lead to cybercrimes, such as information and identity theft. Cyber Attack is also known as a computer network attack (CNA).
Cyber Attack may include the following consequences:
- Identity theft, fraud, extortion
- Malware, phishing, spamming, spoofing, spyware, Trojans and viruses
- Stolen hardware, such as laptops or mobile devices
- Denial-of-service and distributed denial-of-service attacks
- Breach of access
- Password sniffing
- System infiltration
- Website defacement
- Private and public Web browser exploits
- Instant messaging abuse
- Intellectual property (IP) theft or unauthorized access
Types of cyber attack
There are most common types of cyber attack :
- Denial of Service (DoS)
- Password attacks
- Drive-By Downloads
- Man in the middle (MITM)
Malware (i.e. ‘malicious software’) is one of the most common and oldest forms of cyber attack. It refers to harmful programmes and software such as Trojans, viruses, and worms. These allow a hacker to access or destroy data on the infected system.
Hackers often spread malware by disguising it as a downloadable file, such as a Word document, PDF, .exe file, etc. They usually attach them to emails or have download links on websites in a form that looks legitimate.
In order to infect your system, malware requires you to click and allow the download. It can only access your computer with your approval. Therefore, you can easily avoid it by only downloading files from trustworthy sites or senders.
Once malware is on your system, the hacker can access your data in numerous ways. For example, some can monitor keystrokes, activate webcams, or remotely take control of your machine. Ransomware is also a common form of malware, which locks your data and demands payment.
Similar to malware, phishing involves tricking the user into clicking false links. The hacker may send you an email that states your account requires urgent attention and directs you to a fake login page. The fake site captures any personal data you enter, which the hacker can then use to log into your actual account.
Phishing can also happen over social media, where hacked accounts share links via a status update or private message. This type of phishing is often effective, as users are likely to trust links sent by people they know.
Whatever platform hackers use, phishing messages usually incite curiosity or panic to bait vulnerable users. You can avoid phishing attacks by being wary of such messages. Always keep in mind that your bank will never contact you for personal information. Furthermore, Google accounts should not ask you to re-enter your login details if you are already logged in.
- Denial of Service (DoS)
A denial of service attack involves the hacker flooding a website with more traffic than the server can handle, which causes it to overload and shut down. They do this by sending a high amount of connection requests to the site from their own computer or from several that they hacked remotely. If they use more than one, it is known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.
Hackers usually carry out DoS attacks for political or social motives, rather than financial, as they cause disruption and confusion for the site owners.
- Password attacks
Password attacks involve the hacker running a program on their system that tries to systematically guess users passwords. The two most common types of password attacks are dictionary attacks and brute force attacks. Dictionary attacks try common ‘dictionary’ words and letter combinations, whereas brute force attacks attempt every letter and number combination possible.
Password attacks are different from malware and phishing because they do not require you to do anything, except have an easy-to-crack password. After a certain amount of trial and error, a dictionary attack may land on your password and access your account if it is simple enough. If you use a unique combination of words and numbers, it will struggle to hack it. However, a brute force attack will eventually get your password no matter what, although it will take a long time to guess longer, unique passwords (for example, not 123456).
Therefore, it is important that you follow password security guidance to come up with passwords that are difficult to hack.
- Drive-By Downloads
This type of attack requires users to visit websites with vulnerabilities that hackers have exploited. For example, those in programmes like Java and Adobe. By visiting the site, the user unknowingly allows a hacker’s harmful code to download onto their system. This code enables the hacker to then send further downloads to hack your data.
To avoid this, make sure you only visit secure sites and keep your software up to date. Avoid downloading browser add-ons and plugins.
- Man in the middle (MITM)
Hackers carry out MITM attacks by exploiting non-encrypted wireless connections. If you connect to a public Wi-Fi network and then log in to pages or communicate with a service, a hacker may be able to intercept this connection by impersonating the users and manipulating both to divulge personal data.
The simplest way to prevent this type of cyber attack is to avoid using non-encrypted wireless connections, particularly if you plan to log into a site or share personal information.
For example – if you log in to your email or use a customer service live chat. Although it’s tempting to use the free data available on trains and buses, stick to using your mobile data or avoid these types of activities together until you’re on a safe connection, e.g. your home internet.
How to protect yourself from cyber attack
Cyber attack is becoming more and more prevalent as viruses, malware, and hackers grow increasingly smarter.
We explain how to protect yourself from cyber attack. These are various ways to Protect yourself from cyber attack –
- Upgrade Your Operating System
Keep your operating system up to date with the most recent version. Older, outdated operating systems are often much easier to hack or infect.
- Turn on Automatic Updates
Turning on automatic updates takes the guesswork out of updating your software so that you won’t forget. Most programs have a simple checkbox that you can use to turn this on.
- Anti-Virus Software
Having paid antivirus installed on all of your devices is crucial. Some computers come with antivirus software pre installed but it is worth noting paid antivirus provides much stronger security and protection. Like the saying goes you get what you pay for.
- Back Up Your Data
Backing up your data is essential. Back up your most important data regularly at least once a week. To make the task easier you can set up automatic backups using an app such as one drive or Google Drive.
- Create Secure Passwords
Use secure passwords that are hard to guess. The best passwords will have a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. If you have trouble coming up with ideas you can use an online secure password generator. Also always use a different password for each account. Use Password which is a securely encrypted app you can use to log all of your passwords so you don’t ever forget them.
- Set up a Firewall
Always ensure your firewall is on so that you are alerted to potential threats. A firewall can identify and block cyber attack attempts before they happen.
- Validate SSL Certificates
Set your browser to determine the validity of SSL certificates from the websites you visit. This will help you to recognize whether or not a certain website is secured and safe to use with private information such as credit cards.
- Avoid Installing Bundled Freeware
Take caution – lots of free software can have malware packaged with it. Before you install anything do your homework first. Read user reviews and watch for check boxes or buttons that install other items during the installation process.
- Be Careful What You Download
Before you decide to download that piece of software, movie or music make sure you know if what you are downloading is safe or legal. Viruses can sometimes hide in otherwise innocent looking files.
- What To Do If You Get Hacked
In a situation where you get hacked take action immediately to change all of your passwords and watch for email notifications of new IP addresses accessing any of your accounts. Also keep an eye on your banking and credit cards for unauthorized activity and if necessary contact your bank to get your cards cancelled.
- Never Ever Pay Hackers
If your account gets compromised and you receive an offer from the hackers to restore your files for a price, run. There is no way to be certain that they will restore your precious files if you do pay, and either way you’re dealing with cyber criminals.
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