With an increasing number of cyber-attacks hitting our headlines, here’s a quick guide to what they are and how to protect your organisation from them.
You’ve seen it in the movies, but now it’s real life, computer hackers around the world are trying to break down some of the world’s largest, most complex computer systems.
But What Exactly is a Cyber-Attack?
A cyber-attack is an attempt by hackers to damage, destroy, or steal from a computer network or system belonging to a nation, a company or an individual. The attacks have a variety of aims ranging from exposing the weaknesses of a system to improve security, to holding any stolen information to ransom and gaining intelligence on a target.
How do they work?
Cyber-attacks come in various forms.
Phishing schemes are the classic, low-level attacks where hackers try to convince the victim into believing that they can be trusted. The best example of this is receiving an email from an unknown, strange email address, asking you to click the links in the text and provide information for something in return. Of course, you never get anything back, so steer clear.
Spear phishing schemes are similar to the above but much more targeted at the victim. They will pick out key bits of information about you and go the extra mile to personalise their scam to try to lure you in.
Malware attacks and infections are more sinister forms of cyber-attacks. The infection takes place the moment you open an infected file, putting your computer at risk of cyber-crime. Common types of malware include viruses, which spread with user action, spyware, which monitors your activity, trojans, which are disguised as legitimate software, and adware, which maliciously feeds you adverts.
How Can I Protect My Data?
Although cyber-attacks can be damaging, if you take care with what you are doing you should be fine.
- Do not open any attachments or links in emails from senders you do not recognise
- Keep your anti-virus software up to date
- Do not download anything that looks suspicious
- Strong passwords are vital in the fight against cybercrime
- Regularly update your IT equipment and software
- Ensure you dispose of any redundant IT equipment with an authorised ITAD
What About Recent High Profile Attacks?
While a bit of due care and attention can help you on a personal level, there is not much you can do against an attack on an organisation that has your information. The hackers who broke through the NHS’ security system infiltrated it with ransomware. This allowed them to hold the information they stole hostage until they received their demanded payment, or security experts broke the code and recovered the network. If you think you have been affected by any recent attacks your best bet is to play it safe and change your passwords and review your internet security.
Can a Cyber-Attack Have Global Consequences?
In a word, yes. Hackers are always trying to break down governments’ security systems to gain vital national security information, but the impact does not stop there. As the world becomes more digital and more connected, it is expected that up to four-billion people will be vulnerable to attacks by 2020. That is twice the number of people who have an internet connection in 2017.