The risk and severity of cyber-attacks have increased significantly over the last decade. According to researchers at the University of Maryland’s Clark School, cyber-criminals attack every 39 seconds. On average, that’s over 2000 hacking attempts per day. Attackers are becoming smarter every day. In the last few years, we’ve seen massive cyber-attacks related to massive data breaches, ransomware, phishing, or IoT-based attacks.
Digital threats are becoming increasingly complex these days. Recent advances in technology and the ubiquity of digital media have contributed to this trend. Traditional detection-based antivirus software doesn’t offer adequate protection from these malevolent digital forces. It goes without saying that you should not do away with antivirus completely. Antivirus is still essential in 2020, but you need more than antivirus to protect yourself.
Antivirus software gives people a false sense of security that they are protected against emerging threats. This is not true. Detection-based antivirus solutions are reactive and are quite useless against unknown threats. They can only detect and remove malware when it has already done its job. Many people have gotten a rude awakening with massive data breaches despite having antivirus software installed on their systems.
Common Cybersecurity Threats
A common misconception is that cyber-criminals only go after carefully selected targets and big companies. Well, that’s not true. Cyber crooks use automated scripts that indiscriminately seek out thousands of computers at a time, looking for vulnerabilities. From large corporations to SMBs to individuals, everyone can be a victim. Common cybersecurity threats in 2020 include:
Phishing is a form of social engineering attack that hackers use to fraudulently obtain sensitive information from someone by tricking them. Phishing attacks often involve emails or text messages that appear to be from trusted sources. These digital messages may contain an attachment that downloads malware when opened or a link that leads to a fake website.
Ransomware is a form of malware. Malware is any malicious software installed on your device without your knowledge. Ransomware is designed to encrypt data and prevent access to your system files until you pay a ransom. The attackers will typically threaten to delete or publish confidential information if a ransom is not paid. Ransomware attacks are increasingly becoming common, mostly targeting businesses and high net worth individuals.
Advances in intelligent technologies are helping hackers up the ante. Cyber-criminals are now using AI to make attacks more sophisticated. For instance, phishing attacks are now employing machine learning to create more convincing emails and obtain information more easily. This level of sophistication makes it harder to defend against even known threats.
Cryptocurrencies have become a part of the rapidly expanding cybersecurity threat landscape. Mining — the process of generating digital currencies such as Bitcoin — requires large amounts of processing power. Cryptocurrency miners may attempt to piggyback your computer and use your system resources to mine cryptocurrency. Cryptojacking can bog down your system resulting in serious performance issues.
The cyber threat landscape is only going to expand. Forbes predicts a 300% increase in RYUK-related ransomware attacks in 2020, mainly targeting small businesses. Individuals, as well as businesses, need to make sure that they are protected against existing and emerging threats. Antivirus software alone cannot provide this level of preparedness, you need to do more.
Cybersecurity Tools to Consider
So, what can you do to enhance cybersecurity and reduce the risk of these attacks? Here are the top five cybersecurity tools you need in 2020.
A virtual private network (VPN) is one of the most effective online security tools. A VPN hides your IP address and scrambles your internet traffic. A VPN app can help you create a private network from a public network, giving you online privacy and anonymity. VPN is an essential tool when it comes to protecting yourself against a variety of online threats including malware, DDoS attacks, IoT attacks, spies, hackers, and anyone else who would want to steal and monetize your data.
Tools such as VPN and antivirus may protect you against online threats, but what about threats such as physical theft? People misplace their smartphones and laptops all the time. In most cases, lost laptops, hard drives, and other gadgets containing sensitive information end up in the hands of cyber-criminals. Encryption software can help you encrypt computers and storage devices making it impossible for hackers to access the data stored in them.
A lot of data breaches are caused by weak passwords. Hackers can use brute force techniques to crack your password and gain access to your account or accounts if you use the same password for multiple online accounts. A password manager is an online tool designed to help users create, remember, and fill in passwords. A password manager can help you generate and store unique, strong passwords. Password managers offer great security and convenience when using passwords to access online services.
Cybersecurity gaps, especially those that you are not aware of, leave your system vulnerable to attacks. There are countless cybersecurity tools that you can use to scan your network and IT system to single out existing security vulnerabilities. Most of these apps are free and opensource. Vulnerability scanning apps often contain a database with different types of threats. These databases are updated regularly to help you identify new threats more easily.
A firewall is one of the most important tools when it comes to network security. Firewalls have been used as the first line of defense for more than two decades now. Firewalls monitor incoming and outgoing network traffic and use a defined set of rules to filter specific traffic. The primary objective of a network firewall is to block malicious data packets and malicious requests while letting legitimate traffic through. Firewalls can be hardware, software, or cloud-based.
Tactics used by cyber-criminals have continued to evolve at par with business technology and security systems. Sophisticated threats such as phishing, ransomware, cryptojacking, IoT attacks, and AI-enhanced attacks are all over. While antivirus might have been sufficient against previous, less sophisticated versions of malware like Trojan horses or worms, it’s not enough protection when it comes to modern threats. Using the aforementioned tools can greatly enhance your IT security.
Amy Cavendish is a content strategist at the TechFools, a tech blog aiming to inform readers about the potential dangers of technology and introduce them to the best ways to protect themselves online. As an outspoken advocate for digital freedom, Amy is dedicated to empowering her readers to take control of their digital lives with her thought-leadership articles.