What Types of Internet Security Threats are There?
An Internet security threat is a malicious attack whose goal is to steal, alter, destroy or expose information or damage IT systems accessible through the Internet. The nature of the breaches varies and can range from the illegal acquisition of sensitive company data (cyber-espionage) or the Personal Identifiable Information of individuals to causing systems to crash through overload (DDoS attack)
Of particular note is the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on cybercrime. An increasingly remote workforce has led to a proliferation of cyber-attacks. Purplesec, in 2021, reported reliance on the Internet for work has led to a 600% rise in cybercrime during the health crisis.
As a result, the average cost of a data breach rose to $4.24 million in 2021, the highest it’s ever been. Cases, where remote work was a factor, increased this figure by $1.07 million.
At this rate, the global security market is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 9.7% to reach $345.4 billion by 2026, up from $217.9 billion in 2026. However, the US remains the highest targeted country with 46% of global attacks.
What Are The Common Types Of Internet Security Threats?
Here’s a guide to the 5 most common Internet security threats we face today.
Phishing is a social engineering attack whereby the hacker sends messages to the victim, lulling them into a false sense of comfort by appearing to be a trusted source. The victim becomes more likely to divulge sensitive private data, e.g., passwords.
Email is the most common conduit for phishing attacks. These emails can lead to outside links that spoof legitimate sites such as banks. The victim, having been fooled, then enters personal data.
Protect yourself from phishing by staying alert to suspicious emails, never being too willing to hand over personal information over the Internet, not trusting alarming emails, or opening strange attachments.
Man in the Middle Attack (MitM)
A MitM attack occurs when a hacker takes advantage of network vulnerabilities to insert himself in the middle of two exchanging parties. While in this position, they can siphon away information or impersonate the other party and attempt to gain sensitive information. An effective way to protect yourself from a MitM attack is to use VPN to secure your computer’s network, a system that works because a VPN spoofs your location and encrypts your data. However, this method would leave you vulnerable to attack once the data leaves the VPN server headed for its destination.
Because your IP address is spoofed, you cannot be targeted directly, though you are still open to indiscriminate attacks. Another way is to ensure you have strong WEP/WAP encryption to prevent hackers from gaining access to the network through brute force hacking. You can find more about MitM attacks here.
Malware is short for malicious software. It is an umbrella term for all types of malicious software, including viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, and ransomware, whose intention is to compromise, damage, and destroy the integrity of computers and IT systems.
- Virus – malicious code designed to duplicate itself and spread onto connected drives causing damage. Only download files from trusted sites, avoid strange USB sticks and emails and of course, use antivirus software.
- Worms – are very much like viruses except that they do not alter files or need to attach themselves to host software. They work as standalone software duplicating themselves until they exhaust the machine. A famous worm is the Stuxnet worm which undermined Iran’s nuclear servers.
- Trojans – Non-replicating destructive software disguised as useful known applications
- Spyware – a harmful application whose job is to collect and send stolen information back to the hacker secretly
Unlike other forms of malware designed to lay undetected, ransomware’s goal requires that the hacker directly engage you. Once they have control of your system, they lock/encrypt it denying you access to your device or files until you pay a ransom. Many people believe that in case of a ransomware attack, installing a VPN might be useful. But it is actually the opposite, a VPN might actually be just another vector of attack for ill-intended persons.
The hacker might threaten to publish your information or delete it unless you pay. Common routes of infection include email phishing, remote desktop protocol (RDP) and software vulnerabilities, and unsafe download links.
Denial of Service Attack (DDoS)
A DDoS attack overloads systems/servers/networks with bogus requests, exhausting limited resources, and bandwidth. The result is a bogged-down operation unable to fulfill the requests of legitimate users. An example is the Mirai Botnet which executed a DDoS attack in 2016, bringing down several prominent websites and leaving much of the US East Coast without Internet.
Minimizing the possible routes of attack and scaling up your bandwidth are some of the proven ways of protecting against DDoS attacks.
The Future of Cybersecurity
Cybercrime continues to be a looming threat of ever-increasing complexity that preys on individuals and businesses. There is a great need for robust cybersecurity solutions to combat these threats, a trend evidenced by the continued growth in the market value of the cybersecurity industry.
For as long as computers continue to be the depositories of the world’s information, there will always be someone trying to steal the information. We must always be aware, vigilant, and active against internet security threats.
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