Today, there is at least one device constantly connected online and at least one IoT device. The increasing number of continuously connected devices means the risk of a cyberattack is always there. It has become essential for both individuals and businesses to have better knowledge of how to properly protect themselves and prevent an imminent cyberattack.
In this article, we will understand the meaning of a cyberattack, we will learn examples of these attacks and eventually, how to properly prevent a cyberattack.
What is a Cyberattack?
A cyberattack is a hacker’s deliberate attempt to infiltrate your network or system. The purpose of a cyberattack is to steal your information and sell it on the internet or decrypt it and ask you for ransom in return. Both organisations and individuals need to learn how to properly prevent a cyberattack.
Cyberattacks can be:
- Malware, viruses, trojans and spyware.
- Denial of service and distributed denial of service attacks.
- Identity theft and fraud.
- Intellectual property theft.
What are the Common signs of a Cyberattack?
How would you know you’re under a cyberattack if you don’t know what to look for? If you find any of these common signs of a cyberattack, ring the alarm and be prepared to defend your data.
- If you can’t access your usual files or use your everyday applications. Or notice any changes in the files’ names, locations or settings, or the applications’ settings have suddenly changed.
- If your passwords or access credentials changed with your knowledge.
- If any of your accounts is blocked without your knowledge.
- If you find newly installed applications without your knowledge, or the other way round, if an important application was abruptly uninstalled without your knowledge.
- Unfamiliar pop-up windows that appear when you access the internet.
- If your device is running slower than usual, this could indicate a cyberattack where massive amounts of data are being transferred over the network.
- If you’re files are suddenly encrypted.
- If applications keep opening and closing without your involvement, or if an application reconfigures itself and changing its settings.
- If you can open anything on your computer, almost as if someone else is remotely controlling it.
- If you get a clear message that your data was encrypted and you’re asked for a ransom.
What to do if you detect a Cyberattack?
If you spotted any of the previous signs or got a clear message that you’re become a victim of a cyberattack, what should you do?
- Identify the type and source of the attack. If you can do this, you will have a better chance of containing the cyberattack and prevent it from spreading to the remainder of your device.
- You must act swiftly to contain the data breach, which you can do by disconnecting the infected device. If you’re a business, you will need to disconnect the infected network to prevent any further connections to it and data leaks. You will need to re-route any traffic designed for this network to use another network until the attack has been handled.
- It’s beneficial to change all weak passwords, if any of these passwords was changed without your knowledge, try to request a new one from the website but from another device and not the infected one.
- You need to assess the damage and identify what, if any, data was leaked so you can begin to repair the damage. This will also allow you to spot any backdoor access the attacker left during the attack and permanently eradicate them.
- Most likely, you will need to reboot your system and begin anew. This highlights the importance of constant data backup, so in the event of a cyberattack, you can be assured that the attacker can’t use the encryption of your data against you.
- If you’re a business, you need to report the cyberattack to the proper authorities, especially if you offer customer services so they are aware that customer data was potentially leaked.
- Again, if you’re a business you will need to notify your customers that their data was potentially compromised. You might fear the effect of a cyberattack on your reputation, but your customers will also appreciate transparency and honesty.
Prevent a Cyberattack
Learning how to prevent a cyberattack s essential for everyone, individuals and organisations alike. There are many basic steps everyone can take to secure their accounts, data, devices and network from unwanted visitors.
Proper training is a means to avoid human error as much as possible. A hacker can impose as someone from your organisation to trick an employee into sending them either personal information or giving them access to sensitive files. Your employees need to have proper training to spot and report fraudulent emails that include impersonation of someone in the organisation.
You can train employees through a simulation of a cyberattack and proceed with setting an action plan in case one took place. Additionally, they must stay up to date with any ongoing cyberattacks or recent ones in the market.
These simple steps can help your employees avoid falling victims to fraudulent emails:
- Check the email address in the received email.
- Check the links attacked in the email.
- Whenever possible, check through telephone with the person who allegedly sent you the email; the person the hacker is impersonating.
- Use common sense, if they feel the request for sensitive information seems odd, then it’s probably a hacker attempting to gain illegal access.
Stay Up to Date
Outdated network systems or software create major security vulnerabilities that hackers can easily exploit, then it’s too late and you must work on damage control. One of the easiest ways to keep all your systems and software up to date, is to invest in a proper patch system, which will help keep you up to date and avoid these possible vulnerabilities. However, it’s always good to add an extra step and have your IT team regularly checking the work of the patch management system. This way, they will be able to ensure systematic update and the system’s consistent work.
Endpoint protection refers to the protection of the connection between remote devices such as laptops and mobile phones to the organisation’s network. If this connection is left without protection, the portable devices will act as a gateway for hackers to access the main network and gain illegal access to the organisation’s data. The most suitable way to ensure endpoint protection is through specialised endpoint protection software.
Firewall is a Must
Data breaches can be sophisticated and cause severe damage. Hackers can now organise back to back and simultaneous attacks on several targets at the same time, which increases the risk of data breaches. It’s inevitable to install a firewall as a protection layer for your system, which will help detecting possible attacks and taking action before damage happens.
Constant Data Back-up
Cybersecurity specialists cannot stress constant data back-up enough. Data back-up has unlimited advantages, such as preventing downtime in the event of a cyberattack, where you can turn to use your back-up right away. Data back-up will also allow you to better react to the most serious malware, ransomware, when the hacker threatens to wipe all your data unless you pay the ransom, you can do it yourself and start with a clean system using your back-up data.
Control Office Access
It seems unbelievable but your network and system are at a physical risk as much as they are at a cyber risk. If you don’t control who can access your office, anyone can walk in and plug a USB drive that can give them access into your system and network. All the intruder has to do is download infectious malware onto your system and walk out, which is why controlling who can access your office is vital. You must never leave your computer open or sensitive data unattended, which is like giving the attacker the opportunity on a golden plate.
Secure your Wi-fi
Connecting to Wi-fi networks poses a risk in itself, any infected device on this network can infect all the other devices on the network. If an infected device connects to your business network, it is likely to infect other devices in your business network as well. The best solution to protect your Wi-fi network is by keeping it hidden and making sure they are secured by using strong and complicated passwords.
Create Personal Accounts for your Employees
It goes without mentioning that every employee must have their own login credentials to the business’s website and services; if more than one user uses the same credentials, this will compromise their data as well as the business’s data. Separate credentials will also allow you to keep track of your employees’ activity and will give you better insight into their usability.
One of the rising problems in business offices is that the employees install untrusted applications or download from untrusted sources on their business devices, which massively comprises the network and data. The most suitable course of action here is to limit your employees’ ability to install certain programs or access sensitive data on your network.
Strong and diverse passwords cannot be stressed enough as methods to fend off cyberattacks. Whether you are using a home device or at your business, you must never use the same password to access your different accounts or to access sensitive information. If a hacker gains access to one account, all remaining accounts are at jeopardy. Additionally, it’s beneficial to frequently change your passwords, like every three months for example, so if by any chance a hacker was trying to hack into your account, you will be cutting their work out for them.
Full protection against cyberattacks is not impossible, there might seem to be many steps and some of them require experience and caution. However, with our livelihood’s increasing dependency on using the internet, it’s inevitable to exert all effort to protect ourselves on the World Wide Web.