Cyber attacks: what does it mean, what could it affect and how to protect yourself against malicious activity?
The most cyber-attacked country in the Europe is the UK, where about five out of six large corporations were attacked in 2014 which a rise of 40 percent on previous years.
So what are cyber attacks?
They are socially or politically influenced attacks that are carried out primarily through the internet. Cyber criminals use malicious programmes such as viruses to attack the general public or national and corporate organisations. Through unauthorised web access, fake websites and other methods of stealing institutional or personal information they can cause far-reaching damage. There are various types of cyber attacks that are used to gain illegal access to information so that it can be used to their benefit. This includes:
- Targeted Attack
This involves cyber attacks that are focused towards specific organisations, services and individuals in order to obtain private, institutional and technical information for the purpose of monetary gain or vandalism.
- Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)
This involves a set of attacks geared to a particular organisation or individual that is carried out persistently using a number of means to gain information illegally. These attacks take place through either public servers or websites on the internet or through sending malicious programs that affect an individual’s computer and compromise it.
- DoS Attack (Denial of Service)
This attack is meant to disturb services.
- DDoS Attack (Distributed Denial of Service)
This attack is carried from a distributed network of environments.
When it comes to cyber attacks every stage is becoming increasingly sophisticated which makes it challenging to track these cyber criminals and prosecute them for their crimes. These stages include:
- Internal Spread
- Elimination of traces of activity
Who does it Affect?
Cyber attacks can happen to anybody and everybody. An advanced cyber attack goes beyond the capabilities of antivirus detection and email spam filters. APTs are becoming more common as they easily sidestep traditional detection methods and hibernate in your system until they are ready to send information back to the attacker. Therefore, organisations and individuals need to be aware of potential cyber threats and how they can affect them and their organisations.
Most commonly, attacks are performed so that cyber criminals can make money from you through fraud and manipulation. Competitors who want access to private information so that they have a lead on you. Hackers who find it challengingly enjoyable to interfere with computer systems, while hacktivists attack companies or political institutions for ideological motives. Last but not least, employees who might want to settle a grudge against your organisation.
How to Protect Yourself against Malicious Activity
Here are four ways to protect yourself from cyber attacks:
- Set a day to monitor your credit card statements
Whenever you receive your credit card statement, take some time out and review it carefully. Instead of reviewing it monthly, set a specific day once a week to review your statement. If you find something suspicious or questionable you can investigate it immediately to determine whether it was one of your authorised purchases.
- Sign up for real-time alerts
Some banks and credit card companies provide the option of signing up for real-time alerts which allows you to contact them in the event of a purchase that your might feel unusual. You set an amount on purchases and if it exceeds that amount, an email or text message notification will be sent to you to validate the purchase before it is processed.
- Keep your private information private
There is always a constant threat to your personal data and it goes without saying that you need to take necessary precaution when giving out information to unsolicited callers. Try to communicate more in order to learn more. Several criminals trick unwitting consumers into believing that they are an authorised vendor. Remember a simple rule: don’t provide passwords or personal information to unsolicited callers no matter how genuine they sound.
- Change your passwords frequently
Creating and managing strong passwords is the key of keeping your information private and secure. Avoid coming up with obvious passwords and answers to security questions such as your name or birth date. Be creative and create a password that is random combination of numbers, letters and symbols.