October is well known among the vernacular of the younger generation as Spooky Season. Most people are more concerned with ghosts, ghouls, and goblins than they are with the dangers lurking in the dark corners of the Internet. After all, it’s more fun to think about fake monsters than the real ones who could change your life in an instant. Today we will discuss some of today’s technological threats. These are cyber-monsters you should be aware of and protecting yourself against.
The first computer virus was introduced in the 1970s. It took over systems by replicating on the hard drive until the user didn’t have system space to operate. It was actually built as an experiment and had no malicious intent. Today, viruses aren’t child’s play or experiments. The most dangerous one takes over the hard drive completely, encrypting every piece of data. If you’re connected to a network, it can then infiltrate the servers and start encrypting there. If your data backups are also on that network, you lose all access to a clean backup. The only way to get this data back is paying the ransom (not recommended in the vast majority of cases) or working with an IT company to revert back to a clean backup. Either way, you spend a lot of money and time to get back what’s yours to begin with, your precious data.
Malware, Keyloggers, and other Viruses
Unfortunately, Ransomware isn’t the only gross virus out there. Malware is a broad term used to encompass any type of intrusive software designed to damage computer systems. Their intent is to ruin the performance and functionality of your computer.
Keyloggers allow hackers to see the keystrokes made on their victim’s keyboard. This specific form of spyware can be extremely dangerous. This information could lead them to usernames, passwords, bank information, and other personal data. It’s comparable to someone learning all your personal secrets by reading through your texts and emails.
We all know about the viruses that can infect your body, but what about the ones that infect your computer? They are often attached to a file sent to you by a cybercriminal. These malicious chunks of code spread from device to device, damaging your software and stealing your data. Think about it this way: how much scarier would biological viruses be if they could record your thoughts and give them to someone else?
Cybercriminals most often attack by crafting an email or text message that appears convincing. However, once you interact with it (through clicking on attachments or links) you are prompted to enter login credentials or install something that is infected with malware.
Phishing emails used to be super easy to spot. “The Nigerian prince desperately needed to send you money, please send all of your personal information.” Since then, we have become more cyber aware, but phishing attempts have also improved. Today, phishing attempts are a lot smoother. They research your company, then sends an email under a colleagues name. They may request sensitive information or a money transfer. Even just receiving a response to their email can help them learn your email is actively in use. Unless you notice the email address doesn’t match, you may transfer money into an unknown person’s account thinking it’s your CEO.
These honest mistakes cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars every year with very little recourse to get the money back where it belongs. Some experts say that employee mistakes cause nearly 92% of breaches.
Social Engineering and Insider Threats
Social engineering is the manipulation of people in order to get access to confidential information. This malicious practice has been used for centuries but it has gotten even more effective in the Internet Age. Examples of social engineering can include sending an email disguised as your friend or a trusted source, baiting you with free goods or catfishing you into a fake romantic relationship. Once social engineers get valuable information, they can then sell it or use it to line their own pockets.
Unfortunately, not all social engineering happens outside of businesses. As more people work remote, businesses have lost tight control on their data. This increases the threat of malicious insiders. While we want to trust every person working for us, that isn’t always possible or safe. It takes just one disgruntled employee deciding to store a copy of the customer data to wreak havoc on your business. Virtual Office solutions can alleviate a lot of the pain this could cause. They allow you to keep every piece of data exactly where it belongs.
Data Leaks and Password Practices
Malicious insiders can cause data leaks, but other times there are password leaks released into the Dark Web. The Dark Web may not be something that can infect your computer, but it is definitely something you should be scared of. The Internet we use is only the tip of the iceberg, with the Deep and Dark Web taking up the rest. This shadowy hive of villains and ne’er-do-wells is where many attacks are launched from and where a lot of the stolen data is sold.
You may be wondering how a LinkedIn password breach can really hurt you in the long run. (After all, they only gain access to your professional resume.) 53% of people admit to reusing their password on multiple accounts. Hackers take advantage of this. They sell the password or utilize it to hack much more dangerous things like your bank account. Read our post from last week to learn how you can protect your passwords. Be wary, even if hackers don’t get your password, they may still gain access to personal information that could be used to launch a phishing attack against you later.
Cryptocurrency is a hackers’ favorite payment method. It is untraceable and extremely valuable. Most hackers require cryptocurrency as payment for ransomware attempts. Some hackers infiltrate a system and use it to mine cryptocurrency without the user’s knowledge. They get in utilizing a malicious email link or malvertising (advertising that carries nefarious code). A user may notice slower performance, but they won’t connect that someone using their system to mine cryptocurrency. Some codes also spread throughout networks so that hackers can maximize their financial gain using someone else’s resources.
As we connect more devices to the Internet, particularly those items in our homes – televisions, cars, Alexa or Google – we open another target for hackers to infiltrate our lives. Since they can also connect to your internet, your devices are as at risk as your computer or phone. Hackers may canvas homes through your connected camera system or baby monitor, install viruses on your TV or vehicle that impact performance, or begin speaking to you randomly from your device. IoT can be safe, but you must make sure you’re utilizing as many security precautions as possible.
The greatest advantage for hackers is they have become more sophisticated and educated overtime. The good guys haven’t been able to keep up. Its easy to break things down, and harder to build them up. It is a simple thing for a wannabe hacker to buy all the software and tools they need to hack a system online. They don’t even need to be computer experts!
Unfortunately, this has just been an overview of a few of the today’s technological threats that endanger our technical world. Thankfully there are precautions we can take to help keep us protected from these cyber-monsters. Join us next week to learn some techniques and tools that will help you avoid these dangers!