There’s no denying that cyberspace has become a natural extension of everyday life, driving you to put more and more of yourself into the internet, from your financial information to the contents of your birth certificate.
It goes without saying that the more you enter cyberspace, the more you have to guard yourself against the cybercriminals that operate in it. You’ll have to learn signs of their presence, what information they go after, and how they can rob you blind.
Studies show that the global cost of cybercrimes could increase by 69% to US $13.82 trillion by 2028.
This article shows you how to prevent yourself from having to pay that cost by showing you the most common cyber threats as well as how they develop.
We’ll help you arm yourself with the information you need to survive increasingly complex cybercrimes.
1. Phishing: Data Traps
One common way cybercriminals steal your data is through phishing. They lure you in by masquerading as reliable entities, such as banks or high-end retailers, and sending links that open the door to your data.
Studies have shown that it takes just 10 minutes for 84% of people to fall for a phishing email by either clicking the link inside or providing the requested sensitive information. That’s how convincing cybercriminals have become.
There are two simple ways to stay in the 16% of that study:
- Double check unexpected emails, especially those with links or asks for information;
- Verify the identity of the sender by contacting them before interacting with the message.
2. Malware: The Trojan Horse
Malicious software, or malware, is a program created by hackers to gain control over data and devices. Hackers hide malware in files and programs people are likely to download, or links people are likely to click.
The simplest way to defend yourself from malware is by being vigilant with the links you click, the files you download, and the entities you talk to.
The most effective way to defend yourself from malware is to use an antivirus with regular updates that evolve with malware.
A 2023 study shows that ransomware attacks, where data is held hostage, have affected over 72% of businesses around the world.
3. Social Engineering: Marauders in Masks
Cybercriminals don’t always use cyber tools to commit cybercrimes.
A lot of the time, they use plain lies to extract information from their victims. Similar to phishing, this involves masquerading as trusted entities or claiming a victim’s loved one has met an accident.
But unlike phishing, they communicate to the victim directly rather than through text. This lets them make the victim either too relaxed or too emotional to withhold their sensitive data.
Like with phishing, the best way to counter this cyber threat is by remaining vigilant. This means being familiar with the scripts cybercriminals often use, such as faking family emergencies, so you remember to check the legitimacy of the caller.
There are many reasons why people fall for scams like this. It is, however, safer to scrutinize every unexpected request for sensitive information that comes to you. Additionally, it’s good to make it difficult for your passwords to be guessed easily, especially with the use of personal information you might disclose.
4. Wi-Fi Eavesdropping: Entering Unlocked Networks
Wi-Fi is akin to a stream of data. When Wi-Fi is not password-protected or open to the public, any hacker can intercept the data it carries. This is why cybercriminals often hunt for victims through public Wi-Fi.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are the best form of protection against hackers who try to steal your data through your Wi-Fi.
This is because VPNs encrypt your internet connection, making it harder for hackers to understand whatever information they get from a wireless network.
There are two crucial things VPNs do to protect your data:
- A VPN hides your IP address, making it difficult for both cyber criminals and third parties to follow your online activity or locate you;
- Virtual private networks render your data unintelligible and difficult to decode while it passes through the network.
5. Weak Passwords: A Rusted Lock
The temptation to re-use or create a password that is easy to remember has created a proliferation of weak passwords, making it easier for hackers to access data.
Re-used and memorable passwords are the most common types of weak passwords. Studies show that 30% of internet users have had their data compromised due to having weak passwords.
On top of using a password that is both complex and unique, you can reinforce your cybersecurity by using password managers.
This way, it will also be easier to use good, incomprehensible passwords and regularly update them. It can also further encrypt your passwords to make it difficult for cybercriminals to understand or decode them.
There is one main thing hackers steal: information. To keep your data out of their hands, you must protect your digital footprint by locking all your doors tightly.
You need to proactively seal the holes in your security by:
- Regularly updating your software;
- Creating different, difficult passwords for every account;
- Using password managers and two-factor authentication (2FA) for extra protection;
- Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to secure your data as it moves through networks.
These are the simplest things you can do to guard yourself against today’s cybercriminals. Remaining vigilant while navigating cyberspace is the key to keeping your data out of the hacker’s hands.
When facing an evolving threat, the only thing that can truly protect you is your knowledge.
The knowledge of how cybercriminals operate and trick their victims can keep you from falling for their traps.
Keep yourself informed on current cybersecurity methods that work, and don’t forget to share your knowledge! Help others safely navigate cyberspace and let others help you.