Everything You Need to Know about Cybersecurity
Whether you realize it or not, you’re transmitting huge amounts of personal data online every time you visit a website or login to an online account. Chances are, you have even more personal data stored on your computer and smartphone, not to mention important files that you don’t want to lose.
Protecting all of this data online and on your Internet-connected devices relies on understanding cybersecurity. While this may seem like a niche topic, it’s essential to understand the threats that exist in the online world in order to effectively protect yourself against them. Learning about cybersecurity and the steps you can take to ward off attackers is particularly important since the scale of online attacks continues to grow every year.
So, let’s dive into an overview of everything you need to know about cybersecurity.
Cybercrime is Growing Quickly
The first thing to understand is the scale of the cybersecurity problem and how quickly it’s growing. In 2013, individuals and businesses in the US reported around $780,000 in losses due to cybercrime. By 2017, that number had doubled to $1.4 million. On a global scale, cybercrime is expected to cost as much as $6 trillion by 2021.
The problem is that even as hackers are growing more sophisticated in their attacks, individuals and businesses are only starting to realize the importance of cybersecurity. Cybersecurity technology to protect against the vast majority of cybercrimes is available, but it has to be installed and active ahead of an attack for it to work.
What Types of Threats are Out There?
Attackers can come at your data in a number of different ways. Many of these methods rely on your unknowing participation, which is part of why it’s so important to understand the threats you face.
- Malware - Malware is a blanket term for viruses, spyware, and other types of malicious software that hides on your computer or smartphone. Malware can slow down your system or allow hackers to access your data.
- Ransomware - This is a particularly nasty type of malware that allows a hacker to hold your files for ransom. If you don’t pay, the attacker can wipe your hard drive so you permanently lose access to your files.
- Spyware - This type of malware allows attackers to monitor your online activity, including what sites you visit and what passwords you use for various online accounts. Often, you won’t even realize that spyware is operating on your computer in the background.
- Phishing - In phishing, an attacker poses as a friend, colleague, or business in order to get you to reveal personal data (like passwords or account numbers) or download malware. Phishing often comes in the form of emails, but it can also take place on scam websites.
- Wifi Eavesdropping - If you use a public Wifi signal, anyone else on that network can monitor your online activity unless you take steps to secure your connection. This is another way that attackers can get hold of your passwords and online account information.
On top of these threats, you also have to worry about data breaches at companies. Often, corporations that you shop at or interact with have your credit card information, account password, address, and more. That’s more than enough information for attackers to steal your identity. Worse, corporate data breaches go undiscovered for an average of nearly 200 days.
You Can Protect Yourself against Cybercrime
Thankfully, there are cybersecurity tools you can use to protect yourself against the most common types of online attacks.
- Firewall - A firewall is the first step against downloading malicious software online. A firewall automatically identifies suspicious websites, applications, and bits of code. When it finds something dangerous, the firewall will quarantine the malware or warn you against continuing onto an infected website.
- Antivirus and Anti-malware - Antivirus and anti-malware software is also designed to protect you against malicious software. Often, these types of software include a firewall and can scan your system to detect and remove any malware that may have gotten through.
- Virtual Private Network (VPN) - A VPN allows you to safely connect to public Wifi signals by securing your connection between the router and your device. With a VPN, it’s far more difficult for attackers to get a window into your data.
- Password Manager - If you use the same password for all your online accounts, a single data breach or phishing attack could compromise all of your data. A password manager makes it easy to create a different password for every account to limit the damage in case of a successful attack.
- Identity Fraud Monitoring - Identity fraud can be the result of a data breach that no one even knows has happened, so protecting against this type of attack requires constant vigilance. Identity fraud monitoring tracks suspicious behavior in your name and monitors your credit so you can get out ahead of attacks.
How Does Antivirus and Anti-malware Software Work?
Antivirus and anti-malware software is the bedrock of cybersecurity. There are two different ways that these tools respond to attacks.
The first requires a database of known malware and dangerous code, kind of like a database of fingerprints for attackers. Whenever the antimalware spots this known malicious code in a website, download, or application, it will automatically warn you or prevent the malware from running. Of course, this only works for malware that your software has seen before.
To deal with ever-evolving attacks, anti-malware software also looks holistically at the code behind every website and download. If it sees a code structure that looks similar to past malware or code that could be malicious in nature, it will proactively stop that code from running. Artificial intelligence is now being incorporated into many anti-malware programs in order to increase their effectiveness at identifying new threats.
Putting Cybersecurity to Work for You
Cybersecurity play an extremely important role in protecting your data and your identity against the increasingly large volume and diversity of online threats. The best way to defend yourself is with a good offense—invest in cybersecurity tools that can help you identify malware and other threats before they infect your computer and wreak havoc.