The Biggest Cybersecurity Threats You Should Know and Avoid

Last Updated: February 3, 2021

Since the internet was made public in the 20th century, billions of people continue to use it. Information spreads faster than ever, and inaccessible resources are now easily accessible. Due to the vast amount of information and data on the internet, malicious entities keep increasing. Cybercriminals are on almost every corner of the internet, looking for vulnerabilities to exploit; they are constantly devising new ways and methods to steal protected data or deny access to a service. 

It is no wonder cybersecurity is fast becoming one of the most crucial topics, and its professionals are in high demand. Cybersecurity threats continue to increase; in the last decade, there has been an increase in attacks each subsequent year. It is only logical that you know these threats and actions or inactions that can expose you to them. 

This article will present the most significant cyber threats on the internet and show you ways to avoid them. 

What Is a Cyber Threat? 

In simple words, a cyber threat is the possibility of an attack on an information system or network to steal data, destroy data, or deny access to a service through unauthorized access to the network or system. Cyber threats are not always successful and usually depend on a vulnerability in systems, a lack of cybersecurity knowledge by individuals, or a lack of cybersecurity policies in organizations. Prevalent cyber threats include several forms of malware like computer viruses, ransomware, worms, spyware, and trojan horses. 

Cyber threats can ultimately result in successful cyberattacks depending on whether they are dealt with or not. With more devices connecting to the internet, especially with the recent focus on IoT (Internet of Things), the threat landscape is now vast. Other technologies like cloud computing, big data, and artificial intelligence have made malicious entities develop new strategies and technologies to help in their quest to make these threats become successful attacks. The first step in ensuring your devices are safe from cyberattacks is understanding cyber threats. 

Why Is It Important to Address Cybersecurity Threats?

A couple of significant reasons why it is vital to address cybersecurity threats include:

1. Cyber Threats Issues Affect Everyone

The risks cybersecurity threats pose to individuals, organizations, and governments are numerous. Businesses and government institutions particularly are more attractive to threat actors because of the amount of data these actors can harvest and profit off if attacks are successful. The annual increase in the number of devices on the internet can equate to an increase in the number of people in danger of cybersecurity attacks. It can also increase the threat landscape. Many people and organizations battle with discovering cyber threats before it is too late. It is crucial now more than ever to address these threats; how they can be found and ultimately prevented. 

2. The Money Factor

Everyone depends on money, and threat actors are not left out; they are out to get your money. The primary purpose of most phishing attacks is to get your banking details. It should be enough reason to equip yourself with the knowledge to combat cyber threats.

Trust is an essential component of the business world. Customers or users need to trust that companies will ensure their data is kept safe from threat actors. If that trust is lost, companies will lose users or customers, resulting in a revenue loss. It is pertinent they address the possibility of cyber threats and have a plan to prevent and recover from malicious attacks. The cost of a data breach is more than the price of avoiding one. 

What Are the Biggest Cybersecurity Threats? 

There are several cybersecurity threats, but this article will focus on the most popular ones. They include the following:

1. Phishing

Phishing occurs when a threat actor communicates with an individual through email, text, and in some cases, a telephone call pretending to be someone else or an authentic organization. This communication aims to deceive you into divulging personal or professional details. This could be your bank account information or access details into an online account you own. Phishing attacks through emails are the most popular, and apart from stealing personal data, they can infect your computer or network with malware. Phishing is one of the most common and easy ways for hackers to steal information by getting legitimate access details from you. 

2. Malware

Malware refers to any software designed by a threat actor to wreak havoc on an information system or network. There are several types of malware, but the common ones include the following:

Virus 

A virus is a type of malware that can harm your device. Apart from erasing files and hard drives, it can also transfer other malware forms to your devices. 

Worm

Worms are very similar to viruses, only that they can spread very fast. They can reproduce themselves and move across the network to every device on it without any help.

Trojan Horse

Trojan horse is software that looks legitimate but contains malware. It is another hazardous form of malware because of its disguise. With a trojan horse, malicious attackers can install other types of malware.

Ransomware

A type of malware that denies access to specific resources or data on a system so they can request payment for its release. 

Adware and Spyware

Adware is simply software that aggressively inserts undesirable ads on your device. Spyware is malware designed by threat actors to trail your internet activities. 

3. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

DDoS is a form of Denial of Service (DoS) that uses botnets to deny access to a website or service. It does this by sending in requests that overwhelm its target, making it unable to respond to legitimate internet traffic. Botnets are computers the threat actors control, using their resources to send traffic to the target system or network. DDoS attacks are difficult to deal with; therefore, it is better to use preventive measures to ensure they do not happen. 

4. Internal Attacks

An unhappy team member or employee is a cybersecurity threat that most organizations take for granted. Since they typically have access to resources an outsider cannot access, they can wreak havoc. Without the right cybersecurity policies set, employees can also unknowingly give access to threat actors. 

How to Avoid Cybersecurity Threats Before They Occur 

There are several ways to protect information systems from cyber threats. They include the following: 

1. Train Yourself or Employees on Basic Cybersecurity Principles

Phishing attacks are viral, and if you or your staff cannot identify them, you’re readily giving invitations to threat actors to have a fun time with personal or company data. Individuals and organizations must understand basic cybersecurity principles to identify and avoid phishing emails successfully. Common ways to prevent phishing attacks include not clicking on random links and verifying email senders’ identities. 

2. Use An Antivirus 

Using an antivirus on all your devices can save you a great deal of stress from cyber threats. These applications have resources to mitigate known threats. With an antivirus, you can prevent malware from getting on your computer system or network. Most of them have a common malware database, which they use to identify malicious programs on the host system. If an antivirus discovers malware on your system, it is put in a chest, after which you can decide the next action to take. It is also essential to always update your antivirus, as they regularly update their database of known malware.

3. Always Update Software and Operating Systems

One of the ways threat actors can access devices is through vulnerabilities in software or operating systems. You must always update all software and operating systems immediately updates are available. 

4. Use The Principle of Least Privilege

Organizations can limit access to valuable company data by using the concept of least privilege. This demands that employees are only given access to data they need and not all company resources. Implementing it across a company will limit the number of people that bad actors can compromise to disclose company data knowingly or unknowingly. 

5. Backup Your Data

Backing up your data will prevent you from losing essential resources in case there is a data breach. You may not seem to understand the concept behind backing up your data. This is because it does not seem like a preventive measure. But, what happens if there is a breach and you didn’t back up important data? These days, having just one back up is not even recommended. 

6. Control Access to Your Devices

Threat actors that have physical access to any of your devices can inflict severe damage. Ensuring that your devices are safe from unauthorized access can make you less vulnerable to malicious attacks. 

Conclusion 

Cybersecurity will continue to be the anthem for the next few years. Understanding why it is essential to take it seriously is the beginning of wisdom in this internet age. Knowing cyber threats and how to prevent them is an added advantage. It keeps individuals and organizations from being vulnerable to threat actors. It might be demanding to protect yourself or your organization from cyber threats, but prevention is better than cure.