Cyber attacks are responsible for a substantial number of data breaches and disruptions to online services. It is estimated that in 2016, cyber attacks hit no less than half of businesses in the UK. Some of the most high profile data breaches worldwide that year included one at the University of Florida that affected around 63, 000 students and members of staff and one at the US Department of Justice, where hackers released the details of 20, 000 FBI employees. Cyber attacks do not just hit businesses, however. They can affect absolutely any internet user. That is why it is crucial to protect your gadgets from cyber attacks.
The main strategies that hackers can use to attack your device
Hackers’ skills and methods are developing all the time, and it is crucial to update your security procedures on a regular basis. Here are some of the main strategies that hackers nowadays can use to attack your computer or mobile phone.
A phishing email is designed to look like a trustworthy email. It may have a similar format and wording to an email from your bank, or even from your boss at work. Nevertheless, these emails are fake and they will usually encourage you to click on a link where you need to enter passwords, bank details or other sensitive information. Once you do so, the hackers have control of your information and can steal your money or your identity.
Denial of Service (also known as DoS)
This method is usually used against business websites. It involves hackers bombarding a site with overwhelming requests until it is forced offline and ordinary users cannot access it.
A Trojan Horse is a computer program that looks innocent enough, but it conceals malware that can be used to access your data. This can also be described as a ‘bait and switch’ attack.
Here, the hacker creates a wireless access point (WAP) that looks very similar to an authentic wireless access point in your area. Unknowingly, you might log on to the fake WAP instead and provide your logon details to the hacker thus giving them access to your computer.
Here, the hacker tricks you into downloading malicious software (perhaps through a Trojan Horse style virus) that monitors every keystroke on your computer. In this way, hackers can find out your passwords, personal conversations and more.
Don’t let hackers manipulate you: what a hacker can do with your data
Hackers can use the methods described above to steal sensitive information such as your bank and credit card details. They can also (as was the case with the ransomware attack in 2017 on the NHS) encrypt your data and demand payment for its release. Hackers may also release sensitive personal information about you online, or threaten to do so (blackmail).
How to protect your device from hackers
Protecting your device from hackers can be done, first and foremost, by gaining awareness about the pathways hackers take to infect your device and then taking the necessary precautions to prevent your device being hacked.These necessary precautions include, installing one of the many security software’s out there, ensuring your device is updated regularly and not opening or clicking on any suspicious links, emails or messages. Lastly as phishing attacks become ever more common (they increased by a whopping 789% in 2016), make sure to double check the sender address in any emails you receive, and never to click on a link in an email that looks dubious. If in doubt, call your bank to ask them if that urgent message they sent you asking you to log in to your account was an authentic one.