A cyber attack is an attack on computers, networks or systems by cybercriminals in an attempt to steal or access sensitive information. The information stolen during an attack can also open the door to other types of cyber attacks such as social engineering scams.
Continue reading to learn more about cyber attacks and what you can do to protect yourself against them, both in your personal life and at your workplace.
How Does a Cyber Attack Work?
Cyber attacks most often occur by cybercriminals exploiting vulnerabilities within a system or set of processes. For example, many people don’t take the time to regularly update their systems and software, which creates vulnerabilities. Software updates often contain security patches and if those patches aren’t installed, a small hole remains open which cybercriminals can exploit.
When it comes to exploiting vulnerabilities in processes, this can happen if someone isn’t aware of cybersecurity best practices. For example, in the workplace, this could be an employee who’s not aware that they shouldn’t click on unsolicited links or attachments. Cybercriminals take advantage of those who aren’t aware of best practices and use them as a way to launch their cyber attacks on the weak links that can place an entire organization at risk.
4 Types of Cyber Attacks
Below are four of the most common cyber attacks.
A Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack is when a cybercriminal disrupts the traffic of a server. They do this by overwhelming the server with a flood of internet traffic using bots, which causes the server to slow down or crash completely. The goal of a DDoS attack is to obstruct the service of a website or app – preventing a business from making sales or providing their services due to downtime.
When conducting a DDoS attack on a business, some cybercriminals may demand that a ransom be paid in order to end the attack.
Malware is a type of malicious software that infects devices using social engineering techniques. When malware is successfully installed onto your device, cybercriminals can spy on you and steal your data. There are different types of malware including ransomware, spyware and trojan horses. While each type of malware is different in what it can do, they all have the common goal of stealing your data.
Phishing is a social engineering attack that aims to convince a victim into revealing sensitive information by using a false narrative. The cybercriminal will pretend to be someone the victim knows such as a coworker, manager, friend or company.
Attacks on passwords are extremely common. Many people get overwhelmed by the thought of having to create passwords so they result to reusing passwords or use variations of the same password across multiple accounts. This is a poor password habit that many online users have developed, which is what makes them more vulnerable to having their accounts compromised.
A few common password attacks include:
Dictionary attack: Exploits common dictionary words or phrases to compromise a person’s login credentials.
Brute force attack: Uses trial and error methods to guess login credentials. This type of password attack is more successful on people who reuse passwords across multiple accounts because it’ll only take one compromised password to compromise all of the accounts that use that same password.
Credential stuffing attack: Uses a set of credentials to try to gain access to more than one account at once. This type of password attack is also more successful with those who reuse their passwords.
Cyber Attack Statistics
According to our 2022 U.S. Cybersecurity Census Report, the average U.S. business experiences 42 cyber attacks per year and on average, three of them are successful. But it’s not just the number of cyber attacks businesses should be worried about, it’s also the financial losses that come along with them. Organizations that had money stolen due to a cyber attack lost an average of $75,000 and 35% of organizations lost $100,000 or more, according to the report.
Cyber attacks don’t just affect businesses, they affect the average person too. Our 2022 U.S. Password Practices Report found that 55% of respondents had been victims of a cyber attack and 18% of those respondents said they lost money due to the attack.
How to Prevent Cyber Attacks
While there is no absolute way to prevent cyber attacks, there are safeguards you can use to mitigate the risks of cyber attacks and lessen the damage of successful ones.
Knowing the latest types of cyber attacks targeting businesses and individuals can make a big difference in keeping yourself safe. You’ll know which types of cyber attacks are on the rise so you can be vigilant in looking out for them.
Use strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts
Strong, unique passwords can protect accounts from common password attacks that prey on reused and weak passwords. If you find creating passwords for your accounts difficult or if your passwords are hard to remember, it’s worth investing in a password manager. A password manager aids you in creating, managing and storing all your passwords. The only password you’ll have to remember is your master password.
Even with a strong password in place, we highly recommend enabling Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) as an extra layer of security. This ensures that even if someone were to gain access to your passwords, they would still have to first verify who they are before they can successfully log in.
Back-up your data
Backing up your data is of the utmost importance. If a cybercriminal were to encrypt your data, you wouldn’t be able to access it ever again unless you had it backed up. In the case of a ransomware attack where a cybercriminal encrypts sensitive data and demands a ransom to decrypt it, you wouldn’t have to pay the ransom because you have a backup of your data.
While backing up your data means you won’t lose access to it, if you do fall victim to an attack, you must still ensure the stolen data doesn’t expose you to further attacks. If Personally Identifiable Information (PII) was taken, this opens you up to identity theft, so it’s important to investigate what data the cybercriminal may have gotten away with.
Don’t use public Wi-Fi
Using public Wi-Fi puts you at risk of cyber attacks including Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) and malware. It’s best to use a private network. If you have no choice but to use a public Wi-Fi network, make sure to use a VPN to keep yourself and your data protected.
Install anti-malware software
When installed onto your device, most antivirus and anti-malware software will regularly scan for threats. Rather than noticing viruses or malware before it’s too late on your own, anti-malware software will remove any viruses or malware that attempt to infect your device before they are successful.
The Importance of Cybersecurity in Mitigating Cyber Attacks
The only way to mitigate cyber attacks and the damage they cause is by having cybersecurity at the forefront of everything you do online. Following cybersecurity best practices, like using strong passwords, can make all the difference in keeping sensitive information protected. These best practices can also minimize the impact if you or your business were to experience a cyber attack.
There are many cybersecurity tools available that can help you in mitigating the risks of cyber attacks, including password managers for both business and personal use. Start a free 14-day business trial or 30-day personal trial of Keeper today.