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5 Common Digital Threats – How to Mitigate, Defend & Prevent

posted by: Paula Boyden date: Aug 03, 2020 category: All, Expert Explanations comments: 0

Nowadays, it seems like digital threats are impossible to avoid. As our world gets more technological, cybercriminals are always on the lookout for new ways to hack systems to steal money and information. But there are ways we can prepare for such attacks and improve our digital threat defence.

In this modern age, digital threats are more widespread than ever. Our personal information is stored on countless devices like smartphones, computers and tablets. Hackers and other cybercriminals are relentlessly looking to exploit any weakness they find, and to profit from this fact, by gaining access to as many devices and corporate networks as they can. Their efforts include a plethora of digital threats that every business or person is susceptible to, if not using proper protection.

There are 5 common digital threats that affect businesses worldwide:

  • Phishing
    One of the most notorious digital threats is phishing, which is an attack based on social engineering, meant to manipulate people into providing their personal information. It is favoured by many cybercriminals, as it plays on human weaknesses which are, in most cases, easy to manipulate. The human factor seems to be the weak link in the defences of many organisations, as they do not educate their employees on how to identify and report cyber-attacks. It has been proven, that this is one of the best ways to defend against phishing attacks targeting businesses.

This is even more crucial, given that phishing attacks account for 90% of data breach incidents. If you have been a victim of such an attack, disconnect the suspected device from the network, change passwords to relevant accounts, and monitor the network for malicious activity.

  • Malware
    Malicious software (Malware) is computer code designed with the intention of infecting devices for criminal purposes, such as stealing money or information. There are heaps of different types of Malware, ranging from very simple ones to extremely elaborate ones that can cause massive amounts of damage to networks or even physical equipment controlled by computers. A new Malware strain is released every 7 seconds, which makes defending against them a difficult task. The basic defence against Malware is having a solid cyber security scheme installed on your computer or network, but that is often not good enough, as some malware can still avoid detection. Companies who want to step-up their Malware protection, need to invest in advanced tools like ‘honeypots’ and ‘attack simulations’. If you have been affected by Malware, it is recommended to disconnect the infected devices from your network, monitor for any malicious activity and, if needed, disconnect your network from the internet to prevent further infection.

 Ransomware

  • A sub-category of malware is ransomware. This is a digital threat that has been increasing significantly over the past few years. As its name implies, this type of malware encrypts your files or locks you out of your network, asking for a ransom fee to get back network access or decrypt the files. A major reason for its popularity is that many cybercriminals are offering ‘Ransomware-as-a-service’, which allows people with no prior cyber-criminal background whatsoever, to run their own Ransomware campaign, while profits are shared between themselves and the seller.

The best defence against ransomware is deploying advanced cyber security tools, to help identify any Ransomware activity and stop it in its tracks. You should also perform regular backups of your critical information, and have an Incident Response Team on retainer to quickly react to any situations that arise.

 Outdated software

  • This is a relatively easy digital threat to avoid, however, many organisations do not perform the necessary actions to keep them safe. This type of attack relies on the fact that organisations have not patched their software, thus leaving loopholes that attackers can use to infiltrate the network. Security issues in software are published publicly, and they should be patched as soon as possible. If an attacker breaches your network through a software bug, you can quickly try and patch the relevant software, before the attack is able to spread to more computers. You should also monitor the network for malicious activity.

 Internet of Things

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the exciting, new developments in technology, which allows electrical appliances, cars and even our clothes to connect to the internet and interconnect with other devices. It is estimated that there are currently around 31 billion IoT devices online.

However, with advanced technology comes greater threats. A lot of these devices are poorly secured, meaning they can be controlled by hackers from afar, without needing physical access to them. This can be used to install crypto-mining malware and make money, but also to steal private information or blackmail victims. There have even been cases where hackers have scared children, by hacking into the baby monitors their parents have set up and using them to talk to the kids or watch them on video.

The best way to prevent these attacks from happening is by securing your IoT devices. Change the default password, make sure it only connects to “your” WiFi network, and disconnect it when it’s not in use. If you think your device has been hacked, unplug it from your network and have it examined by an expert.

In summary, the top-5 digital threats that you should worry about are:

  • Phishing – an attack based on social engineering, meant to manipulate people into providing their personal information.
  • Malware – computer code designed with the intention of infecting devices for criminal purposes, such as stealing money or information.
  • Ransomware – malware that encrypts your files or locks you out of your network, asking for a ransom fee to get back network access or decrypt the files.
  • Outdated software – A threat that relies on software not being patched by organisations, thus leaving a loophole that attackers can exploit to infiltrate the network.
  • Internet of Things – A threat based on the poor security state of many IoT devices, allowing them to be controlled by hackers from afar.

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