Cyber Security Threats: The Ever-Growing Digital Pandemic
The world came to a standstill when coronavirus threatened the physical health and well-being of citizens globally. Another virus that has been threatening digital health since the advent of technology is only becoming more hostile by the day. Much like the COVID-19 pandemic, this rapidly burgeoning digital pandemic has seriously impacted economies and well being of nations.
Multiple breakthroughs are being made in technology. Every aspect of our lives is now dependent on it. From trade secrets of nations and databases of multinational corporations to the bank transactions of people in the remotest corners of the world, all of it resides in cyberspace.
The extent of private information kept in digital safes is unimaginable. Where a privately shared intimate photo leak can mortify someone, one can only imagine the amount of damage when it comes to large organizations. Fortunately or unfortunately, nothing is left to the imagination anymore. Every day one comes across news about some data breach incurring huge losses for companies.
With the advancements in technology, cybercriminals are not only catching up but it seems they’re two steps ahead at all times. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, in 2021, a cyber attack is expected to occur every 11 seconds. Cybersecurity experts also predict that cybercrimes will cost the world $10.5 trillion annually. These are staggering figures that have been forcing businesses and organizations to prioritize cybersecurity.
What are Cybersecurity Threats?
A cybersecurity threat refers to risk or danger to one’s information security. It is a malicious attack or infiltration by an individual, company, or organization in order to access confidential information from another’s network. These attacks and breaches can also destroy computer systems and disrupt digital functioning. Cyber threats include data breaches, viruses, trojans, Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, and much more.
Sources of Cybersecurity Threats
Cyber threats come from a variety of sources or threat/malicious actors. It is important to locate them in order to take action against them or protect your data against them.
- Nation-states: While most cyberattacks are mere nuisances, most of the serious cybersecurity threats are posed by hostile nation-states. Cyberattacks have become the most common modern warfare technique. From basic espionage, propaganda, website defacement, to disruption, learning national secrets, and even loss of life are all a part of cyber warfare. These attacks threaten national security and have the potential to disrupt critical infrastructures like electricity grids and gas control valves.
- Organized crime groups: Organized crime groups or corporate spies pose a high risk to organizations by partaking in industrial espionage. Stealing trade secrets, money, disrupting profit-making mechanisms, and gaining access to blackmail material are some of the attacks by these threat actors.
- Terrorists: In addition to hostile nation-states, another threat to national security comes from terrorist groups mounting attacks in cyberspace. Terrorists might have less cyber resources to threaten cybersecurity, but they continue to pose an increasing risk as more competent people join the ranks of terrorists.
- Aggrieved insiders: A common source of cyberattacks is from inside the company or the organization. It’s easy for a disgruntled insider to expose confidential data because they might already have access to them. Third-party vendors or employees who accidentally introduce malware are also examples of insider threat. This is more common in workplaces with the bring your own device (BYOD) policy. Organizations often fail to measure the corporate cybersecurity risks associated with it.
- Hackers and Hacktivists: Hackers are intruders who gain illegitimate access to information systems by exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities. They might do this on a whim, to fulfil a challenge, or to simply brag. Earlier, hacking was a complicated task but today with automated scripts and protocols, it is much more sophisticated and simple. Hacktivists are a breed of hackers who are concerned with spreading propaganda. They intend to support their own political agenda and ideals.
Types of Cyber security Threats
There are many types of cyber threats prevalent today, which are only increasing and becoming more sophisticated with time. The serious lack of cybersecurity professionals makes these threats even more challenging and uncontrollable. The Information Security Forum has warned against increased potential for disruption, deterioration, and distortion. Here are some of the most common cybersecurity threat examples:
A cyberattack via emails that tricks the recipient into clicking a link containing malware. This malware then gets downloaded into the recipient’s computer and exposes confidential information and sensitive data. With increased awareness about phishing attacks, as employees become more vigilant for unknown links, cybercriminals have also upgraded to automated messages. These convincing messages trick unwitting recipients into compromising their user logins, credit card information, financial information, and private databases.
This refers to encrypting an individual or organization’s data and demanding a ransom for allowing the user to access it again. These attacks range from mere nuisances to serious incidents. Ransomware damages are expected to cost billions this year. Cybercriminals deploy technologies that enable them to hijack an individual or organization’s databases and hold all of it for ransom. With the rise in cryptocurrencies, attackers’ ransom demands can now be met anonymously, thus making these attacks easier and more widespread.
3. IoT Attacks
The Internet of Things has become omnipresent. According to Statista.com, the number of IoT devices is expected to reach 75 billion by 2025. These devices include home security systems, webcams, routers, medical devices, smartwatches, household appliances, etc. More IoT devices imply increased vulnerability to cyber threats. Hackers take over the device to make it a part of DDoS attack and gain unauthorized access to the data. DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service attack refers to a type of cyber threat wherein the attacker takes over many devices and uses them to overload networks.
4. Electronic Medical Records (EMRs)
With the field of healthcare getting digitized, from smart medical equipment to online patient databases, it is also exposed to cyber threats. The Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon University warns about the increasing vulnerabilities of hospital devices, clinic networks, and patient data. If a device directly connected to the patient gets compromised, it could easily mean the loss of life. With medical records being largely online, hackers have been exploiting the lack of proper security defences to gain access to sensitive data in these records.
This is a cybercrime trend in which hackers hijack third-party homes or work computers to fish for cryptocurrency. They secretly make money by linking themselves to someone else’s system. Cryptojacked systems lead to performance issues and expensive downtimes for companies since it costs a lot to track and fix these issues.
6. Semi-autonomous Vehicles
The invention of connected cars has increasingly enhanced passengers’ comfort. These cars use onboard sensors to optimize their operations. They are becoming more and more popular with the advancement of technology. However, this also exposes cars to cyber threats and makes them easy targets for hackers. They exploit the vulnerabilities in these cars and steal sensitive data or harm drivers. This leads to safety and privacy concerns in connected cars.
7. Man in the Middle Attack (MitM)
This refers to a form of cyberattack in which the attacker sets up a position between the sender and the receiver and intercepts the messages or changes them in transit. All the while, the sender and receiver believe that they are communicating directly. This might be used in the military to intercept enemy signals.
How to Protect Yourself From Cybersecurity Threats?
Cyberthreats have wreaked havoc and are one of the top causes of economic losses in the present generation. With increased global connectivity, cloud usage, and outsourcing, third-party and fourth-party risks have increased. Technology has become smart with artificial intelligence and machine learning, but hackers have become smarter. This necessitates increased cybersecurity risk management and protection.
Cybercrimes have pervaded not only the finance and tech industries but almost every other industry. It becomes essential to exercise the necessary precautions and avoid these attacks to the largest possible extent. In order to do that, it is important to protect people, processes, and data.
Solutions for Businesses/Organizations
Businesses can significantly mitigate cyber risks by implementing cybersecurity awareness amongst the employees. Unawareness can lead to unwitting employees compromising sensitive data and accidentally causing breaches. A lot of insider threats can be avoided by educating the employees about cybersecurity threats.
Enterprises can also adopt simple but effective cyber defence countermeasures such as patching systems. Upon spotting a security flaw, the IT people can write code to patch that problem, thus safeguarding against that vulnerability. New technologies and services that offer a strong defence against cyber threats include:
- Outsourced security services
- Collaboration systems between security team members
- Constant attack simulation tools
- Point solutions for anti-phishing and safe browsing
Solutions for Individuals
Individuals concerned about cyber security threats need not worry too much as big security organizations protect the individual consumer from hackers. However, they can take precautionary measures on a personal level to ensure the safety of their information. These include:
- Strong passwords: Even the biggest security organizations cannot protect your information if your password is “password”. You might think you’re being smart but hackers are a lot smarter. Guessing such passwords is a cakewalk for them. Common passwords make you easy targets of phishing attacks. Ensure password strength to stay protected from cyber threats.
- Anti-virus software: Make sure you install trusted and up-to-date anti-virus software on your device. Keep the device free of malware with regular, automated scans.
- Alertness towards unknown links: Phishing and spear-phishing attacks take place through seemingly genuine emails. Check twice and thrice for any hint of unusual or suspicious activity before opening attachments in the email.
We hope you liked our Cyber Security threats guide. If you did do check out our Cyber security companies UK guide