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What You Need To Know About Cybersecurity

What You Need To Know About Cybersecurity

To help explain why security knowledge is so important, let's first establish the baseline of how daily life operates for most of us.

You Might Think Of Cybersecurity As A Specialized, Niche Career—Not A Skill That The Average Person Should Learn About

But that's not the case. In an age where we manage more and more of our lives digitally, it means that anyone—in any career—should know simple things about keeping security up to par.

At work, this will help companies maintain robust protocols. At home, it will help you protect your own information.


There Aren’t Many Careers Left That Aren’t Based On Technology

Teachers in classrooms are using SMART boards. Someone who comes to your home to do contract work will whip out a smartphone or tablet and add information to an app on the spot.

The mistakes that cause the most damage at companies are security-related—something as small as clicking attachments in emails without knowing if they are safe.


Security Concerns Don't Stay At Work

Nowadays, you’re not just worried about the security of your company, but also your own security and what you put out on your social networks.

As a Cybersecurity expert, I'm constantly advising people on what they should or shouldn't do—even outside of work—when it comes to social media.


How Basic Security Knowledge Can Help Any Career

Aside from simply not clicking suspicious email attachments, there are things nearly all employees can do to enhance company security and make themselves more valuable workers.

Within any role in the organization, learning about security can help an individual understand the risks and make informed decisions for their key stakeholders.


Like What, You Ask? Here Are A Few Examples:

  • In sales, reassure customers of an organization’s security posture.
  • In corporate communications, you should assess in the context of business reputation and brand trust.
  • The legal team should ensure that the right security clauses are built into supplier and customer contracts.
  • Regarding HR and/or security, know what’s needed for better security awareness and training.
  • Product managers should advise on good security features.
  • In engineering development, make sure you develop secure code.
  • Security professionals should perform reviews and quality assurance tests for functional and security verification.
  • Corporate management should ensure that a good security incident response plan is in place to address any vulnerabilities.

As you can see, it certainly doesn't require being a security professional to contribute to security-related projects and awareness.

In fact, the more equipped a workforce is with this knowledge, the less money and time will be lost to security breaches.


Cyber Attackers Rely On Human Error

Hackers rely only partly on their security-penetration skills. The other thing they need? Regular people making mistakes.

An analysis of threats faced by organizations in the first quarter of 2017 reveals that cyber attackers still rely heavily on user interaction.

SOURCE: https://www.rapid7.com/info/threat-report

One High-profile Example:

The CEO of Equifax attributed the company's 2017 breach—which comprised the data of over 147 million consumers and could cost over $600 million—to, you guessed it, human error.


Training Is Mission Critical

For those who do not work in IT but use computing devices for work, it is necessary to have cybersecurity training so that they understand how minor mistakes or simple oversights might lead to a disastrous scenario regarding the security or bottom line of their organization.

With attacks becoming more advanced and sophisticated, training is mission-critical to minimize human error from the cyberattack equation.


Educate Yourself To Be Suspicious And Cautious When It Comes To Operational Security

It's a wise step to take on a personal level as well, since even if your mistake was completely unintentional, you won't avoid consequences.

No one wants to get fired, especially when you didn’t do anything malicious to harm your company.

But this is exactly what can happen if you fall victim to an email phishing campaign or other social engineering attack and become the vector by which your company exposes sensitive information.


Security Know-How Can Advance You In Your Existing Job

Gaining new skills is a tried-and-true way of getting ahead at your job, and security is one that looks particularly good.

Educating yourself about security (cyber, physical, or otherwise) will positively impact the average person’s career.

The first step to getting promotions or pay raises is showing that you can be trusted with additional responsibilities.

Even if your job is not directly related to a security role, consider the ways that your work could be abused by a malicious third party.


Educating Yourself About Security Doesn’t Just Mean Getting A Certification

Your company may be willing to cover educational expenses on your behalf, but even if they don't, there are plenty of ways to pursue security knowledge independently.

It doesn't even have to mean formal training, either. It’s adjusting your way of thinking about the world so that you can put yourself in the bad guy’s shoes and really consider how they could exploit a weakness.


Gaining Knowledge Now Can Lead To A Lucrative Career Later

If you begin dabbling in security and discover that you enjoy it or have a knack for related skills, why not pursue it full-time? Doing so is more lucrative than ever.

It's predicted that by 2021 there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions. That kind of demand should be attractive to anyone seeking career advancement.

SOURCE: https://cybersecurityventures.com/jobs/

Plus, It's Work That Will Help You Solve Real Problems

The consequences of the cybersecurity skills gap spread far outside of the security space—leaving workplaces across all countries and industry verticals vulnerable to attack.

The average data breach is projected to reach a $150 million price tag, plus the corresponding customer and employee trust/loyalty-related outcomes of a breach.

Top Online Threats To Your Cybersecurity And How To Deal With Them

The Latest Hacks or Threats

News flashes and sound bites are constantly calling our attention to the latest hacks or threats to our cybersecurity that seem to be filling our social media news feeds and television reporting circuits.

While there are plenty of bad actors out there hell bent on doing us harm, symbiotically living in the digital ethers and layers that make up the vast web, there are companies and organizations working in the background to protect and remediate any potential disasters.


Some Of These Online Threats Post Significant Harm To Our Lives, Our Businesses And Our Finances

Some of them are easy to detect, while others have become increasingly challenging and more sophisticated over the years.

They sometimes involve massive bot-nets of millions of devices all acting in concert with one another, and sometimes they're far more individualistic in nature, with specific high-value targets that involve social engineering and location tracking to ensure that their cryptic intentions are fulfilled.


Phishing And Hijacking and Social Engineering, Oh My!

If you've ever been the victim of a phishing scam online or you've ever had someone hijack your profile or social engineer you or your employees to gain access to critical corporate information and infrastructure, or to steal any amount of money from you through methods such as Instagram money-flipping, then you know just how painful this process is.

So, how do you go about protecting yourself from these online threats and cyber criminals who are determined to extract money and valuable information from you?


Clearly, There Is No Fool-proof Method To Protect Yourself

As technology evolves, so do our methods for combating these online threats. However, that doesn't mean that the threats stop. They also evolve.

They get smarter, more efficient and more scalable as the near-limitless reach of the web gives them unfettered access to potential billions of dollars in crimes against unassuming individuals and businesses from across the planet.


What Are The Top Online Threats In Cyberspace?

While there are numerous threats that exist at every turn on the internet, there are 10 very significant threats that pose malicious harm to us.

Understanding what these threats are that exist on the web and learning how to combat them is integral to conducting any semblance of business or personal activity these days.

Falling for these is painful to say the least, but even more so when you didn't even see it coming from miles away.


Human Or Not Human?

One of the biggest and most challenging uphill battles here when it comes to online threats to our security is actually determining whether or not a visitor is human.

Bots that crawl the web, or that are designed to somehow infiltrate systems and drop malware generally don't behave like humans. However, this isn't always something that's straightforward.

How we go about detecting automated software and threats in cyberspace has a lot to do with our potential to fall victim to these scams.


The More Informed You Are, The Better Off You'll Be

Not only is it important to institute a good set of habits when it comes to dealing with online threats like this, but it's also important to stay in-the-know.

It's important to note that whatever you do, threats are always evolving.

Locate reputable companies that you can work with to help alleviate some of the stress that failure might cause in this arena.


#1 -- Ransomware

One of the biggest ongoing concerns and threats to our digital existences has been the proliferation and exponential rise of ransomware.

You know, the type of thing that locks you out of your computer with an impending countdown that signals the digital death of your entire virtual existence.

As it counts down, threatening to encrypt every last shred of data, you realize the peril that digital criminals can inflict on their unassuming victims.

But you should never pay the cybercriminals because you don't know the outcome of whether your information will in fact be restored, or simply vanish into thin air.

Redundant backups should be a priority for you. Backup to an external drive somewhere on your network and to the cloud through DropBox or another provider.


#2 -- Phishing schemes

A large majority of people get caught up in phishing schemes.

Phishing schemes are engineered to get you to click on things and oftentimes they seem harmless. Simply click on a link and it will go to some URL. That's it.

However, as harmless as they seem, phishing schemes can lead to to a number of major online security breaches if you're not careful.

By paying close attention to what you're clicking on, you'll better be able to mitigate these types of attacks.

Once you're ensnared in this type of scheme, it's hard to untangle yourself. There are phishing schemes for bank accounts, email accounts, big e-tailers and other service providers that have massive footprints.

The goal? Gain access to the consumer's account to do the most damage. If you think you were the victim of a phishing scheme, and you entered in your username and password somewhere online and things didn't seem right, immediately change all your passwords.

Another important thing to note is that most people use the same (weak) password across a variety of services such as Gmail, Facebook and online banking as one example.

Never do that. Always use different passwords and ensure that they're not simple passwords to begin with.

If cybercriminals gain access to one service, you don't want them gaining access to the others. You should also be changing up your passwords every few months or so.


#3 -- Man-in-the-middle (MIIM) attacks

One of the most sophisticated threats that exist online are man-in-the-middle attacks. I've seen these threats firsthand and know just how malicious they can be.

Everything seems okay all the way to the final point of entry (even when using 2-factor authentication).

This malware sits on your computer and waits until you've entered in all your credentials, then it actually swaps out the server that receives the communication and even communicates back to you.

Throughout all of this, everything seems fine. Nothing seems amiss. That's why it's such a sophisticated online threat.

You almost don't know that anything is happening when it actually is happening. You have to be very wary of what you download to your computer and what reputable sources they're coming from.

Virus software is not going to help you in most cases here because these threats are always evolving.

Oftentimes, MIIM attacks are a result of phishing schemes that installed latent software on your computer that sits dormant for some time until you begin accessing the proper network or until its recorded the right keystrokes.

It then substitutes its own intercepted server right when you submit your credentials to login.


#4 -- Ad fraud

Online ad fraud is far more widespread than anyone could possibly imagine. This is likely one of the biggest cyber-threats that seems to go under the proverbial radar.

Few people know that they've been scammed by sophisticated ad fraud systems after it's occurred.

Publishers simply see views increasing and most ad platforms don't provide specifics as far as direct views on every single ad impression or click, leaving most people in the dark.

This is potentially one of the most lucrative types of online fraud that so many cybercriminals are working to exploit and companies are working to protect against.


#5 -- Social media schemes

Instagram money-flipping schemes and many others social media scams have surfaced in recent years.

Considering that Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, it's no wonder that unscrupulous cybercriminals are targeting individuals who are in desperate situations, looking to make a few hundred or a few thousand dollars quickly.

These Instagram money-flipping schemes have become so widespread that the company can only take down 1 money-flipping scam for ever 3 that are being created.

70% of companies are using social media for business but a large majority of those companies are uninformed about potential impersonations of customer service representatives or duplication of accounts and impersonation of profiles, until it's too late.

In fact, there's little that many of the most popular platforms like IG can do to safeguard against the windfall of social engineering and phishing that is constantly occurring against companies at any given moment.

However, this isn't just a risk to digital security; cybercriminals are now using Instagram and other social media sites to physically track and harm well-to-do executives, celebrities and other high-profilers such as athletes and even politicians.

Without a good system to thwart such attacks, most businesses and individuals are completely left lost in the dark.


#6 -- Bitcoin scams

Bitcoin scams have been on the rise recently, especially since the cryptocurrency leaves little in the way of traceable information and unlike with the banking sector, the transactions are irreversible.

For those particular reasons alone, cybercriminals have been flocking to the Bitcoin platform. In fact, a large part of their criminal activity is dealt with in Bitcoins for a great majority of their malware attacks that include ransomware and other hacking initiatives.

Considering that Bitcoin valuations have been fluctuating and that there is little in the way of current regulations in the marketplace, this will only continue to get worse. Be very wary of paying for things in Bitcoin and in clicking on any URLs that look deceiving.

Read the URLs thoroughly enough to ensure that it's not a variation of a popular domain name, something that hackers and cybercriminals tend to do often.

If you feel like you've been the victim of a Bitcoin scam, it's best to contact the FBI or your local law enforcement agency.

Bitcoin does have built-in protections such as wallet backups and multi-signatures, but that doesn't mean that scams don't happen. Cybercriminals are getting more sophisticated by the day so be careful and avoid anything that looks suspicious.


#7 -- Social engineering

Social engineering isn't a new threat. In fact, criminals have been using social engineering hacks in person for ages now. However, when it comes to fraud and other crimes occurring online, this threat is certainly on the rise.

With the layer of anonymity that the internet affords, it's no wonder that social engineering works so well in this medium. Most aren't that careful about who they interact with or what type of information that they give out or expose online.

It's not inherently difficult for a cybercriminal to Google the web to find information about a person in an effort to social engineer a scam against them. They can discover their occupation on LinkedIn, their family members or children on Facebook, where they are located through Instagram or what they're talking about on Twitter.

They can then work to infiltrate those profiles and take over a person's entire social media presence, and use that control to take over email accounts and eventually bank accounts and so on.

It's important to be very careful about who you interact with and what information you expose to the general public.

Utilize the privacy features on platforms like Facebook or Twitter and be sure not to share too much personal information on platforms like Instagram. If you do, make your profiles private so that not everyone can track your every movement.


#8 -- Targeting employees to compromise corporate networks

Another major online threat involves directly targeting employees to compromise corporate networks. Since some employees act as the gatekeepers into their corporate networks, there's no surprise that this is on the rise.

For example, a large part of the wire fraud that occurs happens because cybercriminals successfully target the right employees to compromise the company's corporate network, allowing them almost unfettered access and approval to steal millions of dollars with ease.

Vulnerable employees also act as a gateway into a corporation's email servers, files and databases, where these cybercriminals can do massive amounts of damage.

Employees need to be very careful on social media networks about who they interact with or through what phishing schemes that they click on and unknowingly provide credentials to.


#9 -- Tracking movements for physical targeting

One massive online threat that exists, which can also help put your physical safety into peril, is the tracking of movements through social media and other channels.

For consumers, this is an enormous risk, especially for those individuals that aptly portray a lavish lifestyle, traveling around the world. When cybercriminals know that you aren't home, it's simple for them to break into your home and steal your belongings.

You don't need to be uber-wealthy in order to be targeted.

Cybercriminals will target all types of individuals through social media channels, able to see when they're home and when they aren't.

If you go on vacation, be careful of what information you're sharing and whether or not your profile is public or private. If you don't have home security systems installed and don't want to be a victim of a crime, be very wary about what you share.

Much of this remains common sense, but our physical security can also be put at risk if criminals know where we're going and learn what our routines and schedules might be. They can use that information to do all sorts of bad things to us, virtually and physically, so be very careful.


#10 -- Customer service interception

One of the gatekeepers to any company are their customer service representatives. They are one of the most proliferous category of employees who are interfacing with the clients on a daily basis.

However, as skilled as they might be at their jobs, they are often unaware of the online threats that most cybercriminals pose when interacting through a number of mediums.

In fact, cybercriminals are known to replicate profiles and post throughout social media to draw attention to unassuming individuals.

They do this in an effort to gain access to accounts, alter the awareness of the general public and to funnel or filter payments and other inquiries that might otherwise alert companies to something that's amiss.

Not only is this bad financially speaking, but it's also bad for a company's reputation. When a customer is angry, they often don't care whether they were speaking to an imposter or the actual company's representative themselves. At that point, it's usually too late to put out the fire.

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About the Author

PABlo Bley

PABlo is an artist, musician, author, inventor, serial entrepreneur and technology evangelist, and has years of experience designing, developing, speaking, and writing about technology. As a prolific blogger, PABlo writes on a regular basis for a number of online communities and learning provider outlets, where he contributes science journalism articles, business-oriented and educational content and shares his expertise in instructional systems design, content-marketing, cyber security, and thought leadership.
 
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