Top 10 Cyber Security Threats and How to Prevent Them

Learn how to slow down cyber criminals by understanding these common cyber threats.

Your organization depends upon its networks and equipment to run flawlessly. Any disruption of your technology—even for short periods of time—is costly, and this factor makes it more important than ever for your teams to understand current cybersecurity threats. Let’s take a look at the following top 10 cybersecurity threats and steps you can take to prevent them.

1.  Malware

Cybercriminals have gotten quite adept at sneaking dangerous code into business systems—this is referred to as malware. Malware is one of the biggest types of computer threats companies face today, and, unfortunately, it comes in all shapes and forms. These malicious codes are typically activated when users click on links, open attachments, or download files. Common types of malware to be aware of include:

Some types of malware are annoying but others are seriously harmful and can block your business from its operations or the threat actors take over internal systems. To combat these types of computer threats, educate your employees to carefully consider every link, attachment, or download before they click. Applications should be consistently up-to-date, and antivirus security software and firewalls used. Having a professional perform vulnerability assessments is also valuable to identify a multitude of cyber security risks.

2.  Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware but has grown exponentially over the past few years to the point it deserves its own mention. As one of the biggest types of cyber security threats out there, businesses of all sizes need to understand the severity of it. Cybercriminals who successfully insert ransomware into your business gain the power to lock your systems and prevent you from accessing them without paying a large payment. Even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your files back—the FBI explicitly states organizations should not pay ransoms.

The key to combating malware is to educate your teams on safe internet and computer usage, along with taking steps to prevent it from spreading and limiting its impact.

It is clear ransomware is going to remain at the top of the biggest cyber security threats in 2022 and beyond. Since cybercriminals are finding ransomware to be profitable, you'll want to be vigilant about these future cyber security threats.

3.  Social Engineering

Social engineering can be high-tech or no tech. Fundamentally, it’s the art of exploiting human psychology to gain access to data, systems, and even physical buildings. Examples of social engineering include cybercriminals doing the following types of actions.

Social engineers are very skilled at what they do, which is why it’s one of the top 10 cyber security threats. They exploit human qualities such as greed, curiosity, trust, deference to authority, politeness, and temptation. Other times, threat actors will use emotions, such as fear or urgency, to get people to take action without thinking. To avoid social engineering, plan to use protective technical solutions for internet threats along with education—the latter should involve training being given at every level of employee.

4.  Phishing

Phishing is a type of social engineering, but like ransomware, deserves a mention of its own. These attacks, along with related techniques, smishing (SMS), and vishing (phone), are designed to get people to give up confidential information. Criminals might be seeking login information, account numbers, or other sensitive data and trick people into opening links or downloading malicious attachments which then inserts malicious code, often spreading.

To prevent these types of threats, you should train your employees to carefully evaluate any link, attachment, or download they receive. A seemingly harmless email can create substantial threats to any information system in an organization. In fact, many phishing emails look so much like legitimate entities, it’s often hard to tell the difference.

5.  Zero-Day Threats

It’s a rare event that an application doesn’t have some sort of security flaw. These flaws are considered vulnerabilities and threat actors exploit them. A zero-day threat is when these vulnerabilities surface and hackers quickly work to manipulate them to their advantage. The best ways to fight this is to use a good firewall, limit user access to essential files only, utilize routine data backup, use a network intrusion protection system, apply patches ASAP, and have an incident response plan ready.

6.  Internal Threats

Unfortunately, internal threats remain a persistent problem for businesses. Disgruntled employees, angry contractors, dishonest people, or, perhaps put more simply, greedy motives by anyone associated with the organization. Even honest mistakes of exposing data can fall into the category of internal threats – humans are any organization’s biggest weakness.

To combat cyber security issues and challenges associated with internal threats, limit administrative rights to data on an “as needed” basis, strive to create a positive company culture, ensure equipment is locked up or shut down when not in use, and use physical security measures to protect buildings.

7.  Emotet

Another form of malware, Emotet, is powerful enough to cause serious technological threats in business. According to CISA, Emotet persists in being “among the most costly and destructive” of malware, making it one of the biggest cyber security threats. Essentially, it’s a banking trojan that tricks antivirus software since it looks legitimate. Once it gains internal access, it drops malware which then spreads. Unfortunately, cybercriminals deploying Emotet malware are moving beyond banks to other businesses and government agencies. To learn more about these technological threat examples and how to prevent an attack, see this page.

8.  Denial of Service/Distributed Denial of Service

Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Services (DDoS) are cyber-attacks that overwhelm either a singular computer or an entire network to the point it can’t respond to requests. Popular types of DoS attacks include botnets. DDoS attacks come from multiple sources.

With either attack, the system freezes and it tries to respond to requests, but it is overwhelmed. In a business environment, a DoS attack can halt operations entirely. Ways to combat DoD attacks include knowing how to identify denial of service attacks and having extra bandwidth available. Most businesses don’t have the technical know-how on site and need to have their ISP/host provider and/or a qualified professional step in. These current online security threats associated with DoS/DDoS are a kind of attack that unfortunately never falls out of vogue.

9.  Man in the Middle

Man in the middle (MITM) cybersecurity threats are assaults that enable the threat actor to eavesdrop on private conversations. However, one of the most common ways hackers infiltrate themselves is by snooping on unprotected networks. Once inside, the threat actor gains free access to either party’s software applications and can insert malware or otherwise gain access to sensitive information.

If they’re able to get in without being noticed, they can simply take private data as they wish. The primary way to circumvent these common security threats is to ensure networks are thoroughly secure, use strong encryption, use VPNs, and to never use open or public Wi-Fi.

10. Cloud Vulnerability

Cloud computing has been a game-changer that has empowered SMBs to play alongside the big companies. However, with all the benefits of the cloud, it does provide an attractive playground for cybercriminals, but if you understand known risks and vulnerabilities associated with the cloud and implement protective measures to mitigate an attack, the rewards of the cloud are worth it.

There are many different types of security threats to organizations. However, by using mitigation and preventative methods, your business can bolster its security.

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