Anyone in the data or tech sectors knows cyberattacks are a severe threat to individuals and organizations. The global cost of cybercrime attacks is expected to rise to over $8 billion starting in 2023.
That’s a lot of money and it will only increase as technology becomes more sophisticated. But why has cybercrime become so rampant? One of the reasons is because of possible weak points in your cybersecurity. These flaws can range anywhere from outdated security systems to human error — all of which different types of hackers can exploit.
The Dangers of Cyberattacks
There are several types of hackers, but they all typically have the same skill set as computer programmers or engineers. Becoming a hacker instead of either of those occupations is choosing to use expertise for personal gain.
But how do hackers hack? They look for vulnerabilities in your computer systems and take advantage of them to launch cyberattacks. You might never know about these vulnerabilities, like old computer programs or outdated security software.
The most obvious reason they do it is to gain or extort large sums of money from the victims. Governments also employ hackers to launch cyberattacks as part of coordinated efforts to destabilize another country.
Whatever their reasons, the frequency of cyberattacks has skyrocketed — primarily as more people work from home. While remote work has a lot of advantages, it comes with the risk of employees being easier targets for hackers.
The ways that hackers can get into your computer systems to wreak havoc are vast. To take precautionary measures, you have to understand the different types of vulnerabilities your system might have and how to defend them.
Phishing is one of the ways hackers hack into your system and by far the most prolific form of cyberattack. The world saw a massive surge of phishing attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic — a trend that shows no sign of stopping. Studies show the third quarter of 2022 was a record high for phishing attacks worldwide.
Phishing takes advantage of human negligence. A typical scam involves a type of hacker called “phisher” creating a fake domain that closely resembles one from a legitimate organization. They will then send emails and text messages targeting many individuals, calling for them to click on a link. Victims who do so invite any form of malware into their systems, allowing the hacker to steal data or hold the affected device for ransom. Once the malware is in, it’s tough to purge.
The success of a phishing attack hinges on the victim clicking that link, so all you have to do is not click on it. It sounds simple, yet phishing has been very successful as a way for hackers to hack systems. Sometimes, the victim might not pay attention to the link and think it’s legitimate. Other times, hackers might tailor the email or message to the victim using information they stole from another source, posing as a friend or colleague to get them to click.
To avoid this happening to your organization, you and your people should be able to recognize fraudulent emails and messages and report calls from suspicious parties.
A successful cyberattack will also exploit outdated software with vulnerable security openings. Outdated in this case means software that has been phased out and no longer receives regular updates. These updates are essential because they regularly patch flaws.
Some people become hackers to learn to exploit these weaknesses. If your system no longer receives security updates, these vulnerabilities stay open for any hacker to use. To avoid this, you need the latest cybersecurity systems.
Data storage units should be encrypted in the event the system is breached. If your organization has a website, it should have its security integrated. Investing in anti-malware and anti-virus software is essential. In addition, passwords should be changed at regular monthly intervals to prevent access from falling into the wrong hands.
A zero-day vulnerability is a security flaw discovered by a threat actor — such as a hacker or malicious software — unknown to the software vendor. Unlike cases where programs were outdated, these vulnerabilities may occur in newer software. Because the vendor has not discovered them, hackers race to take advantage of the opening before a patch is issued to close it. Recognizing these vulnerabilities is one of the skills needed to become a hacker.
The only real way to protect yourself from these kinds of threats is to use multiple layers of security, such as complete endpoint protection.
Keep Your Organization Secure
Hackers aren’t going to stop hacking anytime soon, but patching up areas of vulnerability in your system can keep hackers at bay. Recognizing phishing attacks and regularly updating your security software are significant first steps.