Can you tell how much damage online threats can cause?
We are surrounded by several notorious cyber threats daily. Whether you be a part of a big organization, or an individual sitting in your bedroom, online threats are always finding ways to infiltrate your system.
Therefore, having proper knowledge of cybersecurity is vital to tackle such threats.
I have curated this guide to introduce you to cybersecurity, explain the types of cyberthreats, and how to be sure to protect your system and data.
Besides, we will also learn about the best tools available at our disposal for adequate protection.
So, without any further ado, let’s get started.
What is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting and recovering computer systems, servers, and digital information from any kind of cyber-attack. It is commonly known as Information Technology Security or Computer Security.
The attacks can originate from inside or outside of an organization and targets individual computers or networked systems. A cyberattack on an organization can cost millions of dollars in loss. This price includes the expenses of discovering and responding to the breach, loss of revenue due to downtime, and the long-term reputational damage caused to the enterprise.
Similarly, an individual may face monetary loss, identity theft, or psychological torture from blackmail. The loss of data is an inevitable thing in case of a successful breach.
In addition, cybercriminals often steal user data from big companies. The data includes personally identifiable information (PII) for their users, for instance, name, phone number, email address, credit card number, birthdate, and more. Later, cybercriminals sell this data on the dark web for personal profits. Compromised PII can lead to declined trust from customers, regulatory fines, and legal actions in some cases.
The best cyber defense has multiple layers of security spread across devices, networks, and programs. However, the major part of it relies on people making smart and educated choices.
Luckily, you don’t have to be a cybersecurity expert to practice cyber defense techniques. Anyone with adequate knowledge can tackle cyber threats with ease. The small steps can help you prevent critical cyberattacks like demanding ransom, phishing, and identity theft.
In short, cybersecurity implies defending your system using security tools and teaching yourself to identify and avoid malicious approaches.
Layers of Cybersecurity
A solid cybersecurity strategy should consist of layered protection against cyberattacks trying to access, manipulate, or destroy the data. These attacks also tend to extract money from users or organizations. I have listed below a few of the necessary precautions for an effective cybersecurity strategy.
- Critical Infrastructure Security: It includes protecting the computer systems, networks, and similar assets that society relies on for national security, economy, health, and public safety.
- Network Security: It is the practice of protecting networked computer systems, either wired or wireless, from targetted intruders or opportunistic malware programs. This layer is vital in big organizations where all computers are interconnected.
- Application Security: It includes designing the application operating on the system or the cloud while considering security measures. The significant part also deals with how data is handled, user authentication, and more.
- Cloud Security: Big enterprises have to use cloud storage to store enormous data. Encryption of such information which is in rest position (in storage), in motion (as it travels to, from, and within the cloud), and in use ( while processing), is vital to protect user privacy and business requirements. Moreover, it is essential to obey regulatory compliance standards.
- Information Security: Data protection laws such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enable organizations to put high standard security and user privacy. It prevents your data from theft, unauthorized access, or any kind of unethical exposure.
- End-user Education: Educating users/employees to consider security measures is a key part of cybersecurity. Applying best security practices won’t help if a human error introduces a virus in the system. You can train them to delete suspicious emails or not to use unknown USB devices.
- Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity: A proper operating procedure needs to be in place to recover from any unpredictable incident. It can be a security breach or a natural disaster. A business can not afford massive downtime. Therefore, for employees and users to have a flawless experience, it is vital to keep disaster recovery plans ready.
Why is Cybersecurity Important?
Cybersecurity is essential because the government, corporate, military, financial, and medical organizations collect, process, and store vast amounts of user data. These organizations store such information on local devices and cloud storage. The data is continually processed and contains sensitive information like financial details, personally identifiable information, and more sensitive stuff that can impact users negatively if accessed unethically.
Cybersecurity ensures that the data is secure and encrypted when organizations transmit it through various networks while doing their business. Besides, the increasing volume of cyberattacks worldwide makes it necessary for organizations dealing with national security, finance, and health to protect user data.
Another side of the coin deals directly with you as a technology user. Whether you be a student or enjoying your retirement, your data is precious and can be used against you. The sensitive information related to us shifted from paper to computer servers in the last few decades. Responsible organizations surely take appropriate steps to protect this data for you. Otherwise, they might have to deal with the backlash from users like us.
However, if you willingly provide your details to malicious practitioners, then there is nothing the organizations can do. You will be solely responsible for sharing your bank details to shady places and getting scammed. Therefore, education against cyber attacks is vital for a reliable cybersecurity environment.
The Scale of Cyber Attacks
The most popular idea is installing an antivirus program on your system when it comes to computer security. It is without a doubt essential to protect your data from damage using such security suites, more on that later. Let us first take into the perspective of how much damage cyber attacks can cause.
According to a report by Isaca.org, the financial damage caused by cyberattacks globally will reach the mark of USD 6 trillion in 2021. Cybercriminals primarily target big enterprises having turnover in billions of dollars. The combined economy of cybercrime makes it equivalent to the third-largest economy after the USA and China.
In addition to the downtime a company suffers, cybercriminals also make user data available for purchases. If you ever get malicious emails, messages, or calls, then your data might have been compromised somewhere. More unethical hackers can use the data to gain monetary benefits from users using blackmailing or identity theft.
If these criminals attack the military servers of your country, then imagine the damage they can cause. They can know about the firepower capacity of a country, weaknesses in security systems, and much more. Eventually, the whole country might fall against a terrorist organization.
In short, cyber threats are the rapidly evolving and most dangerous form of crime in the current world. It can bring large organizations to the ground if they are vulnerable.
Common Cybersecurity Threats
Although the cyber security teams take all possible measures to defend an organization, criminals are always looking to breach the company using security vulnerabilities. In the current work-from-home environment, cybercriminals can exploit the remote access tools, and employees become more vulnerable because of the communication gap between the IT security teams.
You can distinguish the cyber threats based on the motive behind them into three primary categories.
- Cybercrime: It includes individuals or a group of hackers targeting organizations or personal computers to gain monetary gains or cause disruption.
- Cyberattack: Usually targets networked systems to gather information for political advantage.
- Cyberterrorism: It is intended to sabotage electronic devices to induce panic or fears among people.
To execute any of the attacks mentioned above, cybercriminals need to access electronic devices or servers. Here are the common methods cybercriminals use to infect a system.
Malware is a portmanteau or blends of two words, malicious and software. It is one of the most common cyber threats lurking around the globe.
Malware is a piece of software created by cybercriminals to disrupt or damage user computers. The program is often propagated through email attachments or genuine-looking downloads. Cybercriminals usually use this method to invade systems for financial benefits or political agendas.
There are a variety of malware programs that cybercriminals use to infect your computer. Some of them are as follows:
- Virus: A virus is a self-replicating program that attaches to clean files and spreads throughout the system. It mainly damages files it interacts with and renders them useless. In enough time, a virus can damage your operating system entirely.
- Trojan: A trojan is a legitimate-looking program that works in the background to execute malicious actions. Cybercriminals use this malware to damage, disrupt, steal, or in general, take some other notorious action.
- Spyware: It resides in your system and records your work on the computer. Cybercriminals use it to collect information and can use it against you. For instance, spyware can record and transmit your credit card details to cybercriminals.
- Ransomware: It locks your files and threatens you to delete them if you don’t pay the ransom amount. The files are usually unrecoverable even if you pay the price.
- Adware: The program bombards your computer or browser with numerous ads to spread more malware or steal information.
- Botnet: It is a network of computers connected through a malicious file. Cybercriminals use it to execute attacks using your computer without your knowledge or permission.
The structured query language (SQL) injection method is used to steal data directly from the database. Cybercriminals commonly use it to fetch user information from big company servers. The process includes introducing a malicious line of code in the SQL statement, which provides cybercriminals access to the database.
Phishing is when a cybercriminal asks for sensitive information from users using emails, messages, and phone calls. The message usually looks like a legitimate one coming from some major company like your bank. Phishing attacks try to convince you to give up sensitive information like your account passwords or bank details.
In a man-in-the-middle attack, a cybercriminal would intercept the communication between two devices to steal information. The most common example for it is unsecured wi-fi networks. An attacker can intercept the data transfer between the victim’s device and the network. Ultimately, cybercriminals can also change the data in the process if it is unsecure.
Cybercriminals use denial-of-service attacks to overwhelm a system with excess traffic. By doing so, they render the system useless for completing legitimate tasks. It can cause significant downtime for the website and might lead to severe losses. Besides, the server can also crash damaging the data stored on it.
Cybersecurity Tips to Protect Yourself Against Cyberattacks
Cybercriminals usually don’t waste time deciphering your security unless you are an important person or organization. They use the time to target less secure systems to make an actual profit. Besides, someone who is making efforts to protect their virtual life is harder to fool into cyberattacks. Here are some quick tips you can apply to protect yourself from cyberattacks.
- Update your software and operating system: You get the latest security patches by regularly updating your software. Old versions of software programs are more susceptible to attacks due to security vulnerabilities.
- Use strong passwords: Using stronger passwords makes it difficult for cybercriminals to guess them, even using some algorithms. If you find remembering multiple passwords hard, I suggest using a password manager.
- Avoid suspicious email attachments: Avoid opening email attachments from unknown users, for they might contain malicious files.
- Avoid suspicious email links: Cybercriminals send random emails containing tempting deals to people. Such links often lead you to malicious pages or downloads.
- Do not use unsecure wi-fi networks: Unsecure public wi-fi networks leave you vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks.
- Use antivirus/antimalware software: Security programs will protect your computer from malicious files and highlight any malicious link on the web.
Best Computer Security Software
Security vulnerabilities are a fundamental part of any computer system. Someone will always find a way to bypass the securities and enter the system. What we can do is, make it hard for criminals to hack us.
The best way to protect your device from any kind of cyberattack is by using a security program. I have tested numerous computer security software in various categories. Things in consideration were popularity, processing load, price, and a few more factors. I ended up with a list of the best security programs for your computer in several categories. Let’s look at them.
Bitdefender Total Security: Best of the Best
Bitdefender is among the most widely used antimalware programs. It will provide complete protection to your device from malware and protect it from rogue websites trying to collect your data. Additionally, you can improve your system performance using the Speed Up feature.
Some prominent functions packed in Bitdefender Total Security include VPN, File Encryption, Parental Control, Password Manager, and much more. Overall, the features combined provide a safe environment for your computer while also helping you improve performance.
This security program is compatible with Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android devices. A single multi-device license can be used on up to 5 gadgets. That is enough to cover all smartphones and computers at your home.
Bitdefender provides various plans for home and business use. Whereas all program variants use the same detection engine, you can choose one suitable for you according to your needs. You can read more about the benefits and downsides of the software in the Bitdefender Total Security review.
Avast Ultimate: Best Usability
Avast has been in the cybersecurity business since 1988. That makes it the most popular and reliable security company out there. Moreover, it allowed the company to evolve in parallel with new coming security threats. That added to a better-performing detection engine.
Apart from the essential antivirus program, Avast Ultimate comes in a bundle of a few more valuable applications. The list contains Secureline VPN, Cleanup Premium optimizer, and the Password manager.
Whereas Avast provides significant protection from viruses, the malware detection rate could have been better. You can quickly get rid of the issue by installing an additional antimalware application.
Besides that, all features in Avast Ultimate works amazingly to protect and speed up your PC. Moreover, the robust VPN lets you stream videos and play online games without any difficulties.
The best part of getting this security solution is the number of devices it supports. You can use a single license on 10 devices, including iOS, macOS, Windows, and Android. You can check out the detailed review of Avast Premium Security to better understand the product.
MalwareFox: Best Second Layer Security
MalwareFox is among the new generation of antimalware products. Even after providing noticeable features, the price range is quite affordable given that the product is new.
MalwareFox uses a web-based detection engine that lowers down the processing load on your computer. That means the program runs smoothly even on a low-end PC.
Using an antimalware application protects you from all kinds of cyber threats targeted at a home user—for instance, viruses, phishing attacks, spyware, trojans, and more. MalwareFox has proved to detect each threat effortlessly, making it reliable for protecting your device.
The real-time scan comes in handy if there is a ransomware infection on your computer. The security program would prevent any file encryption by quarantining the infected file immediately. Moreover, the zero-day attack prevention technology helps detect any malware that looks harmless at the beginning.
MalwareFox is available for Windows and Android devices. You can buy a single device license or a multi-device license at affordable prices compared to any product with similar protection against cyber threats.
Is Cybersecurity Necessary?
Short answer, Yes.
Whether you be a multimillion company or a student sitting in your bedroom, protecting your data from falling into the wrong hands is your responsibility. Anyone suggesting against it might not be thinking through.
Cybersecurity means making all efforts to keep your sensitive information secure. It can be your bank details or social media logins. Cybercriminals know how to use any information against you.
We discussed a few tricks and tools to protect your device. Still, it boils down to you being aware of the sites you visit, networks you join, or software you download.
Be prepared for any threat and make it harder for cybercriminals to access your device.