If there’s one thing you can say about hackers it’s that they don’t give up easily. For as long as there’s Internet there will be persistent cyber security threats, and each year they get more advanced. The best way to protect yourself is through awareness, so in this post I’m going to describe some of the more common security threats you might run into.
Threats of Extortion
Extortion is essentially the same whether it occurs online or offline. It involves someone gaining access to a victim’s sensitive information, then threatening to release the information unless demands are met. The threat in this instance is not so much about private information being stolen, but the possible ramifications a company could face if that information was made public.
The problem with these attacks is that there’s no way of knowing how widespread they are. If the victim being extorted gives in to the attacker’s demands, then no one would know the event even occurred. The most prolific of such attacks in the past year has been the Ashley Madison hack, which cost the CEO his job and compromised the privacy of all its customers.
Threats of Data Manipulation
We used to have to worry about hackers stealing or erasing information; now there’s a threat that involves attackers manipulating a company’s data. Usually when a cyber attack occurs you know about it immediately. A data manipulation attack can go on for quite some time before being detected. Even slight changes of data can have tremendous consequences. For example, if an attacker gained access to stock-trading systems they can alter the data to make stock prices go up or down.
Threats of Fraudulent Purchases
In an effort to counter against hackers stealing credit card information, banks have begun to introduce new chip-and-PIN cards. These have been effective in preventing fraudulent purchases occurring in-store, but have done nothing to reduce the amount of fraudulent purchases completed online or over the phone.
According to the UK Payments Administration, fraudulent purchases either online or over the phone have increased from 30% to 69% over a 10-year period. Since neither a PIN or signature is required for completing payments online, having just the card number is sufficient to complete a fraudulent transaction. Expect these attacks to increase until there’s a more secure solution for making card-not-present transactions.
Threats of Data Theft
Many victims of data theft willingly hand over their information to attackers in what are called phishing scams. These occur when you receive an email where it appears that a trusted source is asking for some very private information.
For example, an attacker with a legitimate-looking email address might might send you a message saying they’re from PayPal and you need to update your password. The email message links to a form where you can input your password information thinking it’s getting sent to PayPal, but it’s really going direct to the attacker. Then they have access to all of your financial data stored in PayPal.
That’s just one example. All phishing scams work a bit different, and hackers are always getting more creative deceiving attackers. Keep your guard up before giving over any sensitive information.
If you need more advice about thwarting cyber security threats, please leave a comment below or use the contact form to get in touch.