The advancements in technology are all good until it is used for the benefit of society as a whole. But like everything else, there is a darker side to it. A bigger cyber network means more hidden loopholes, and thus, leading to more cases of cheating and fraud.

It is essential to plan ahead when it comes to maintaining cybersecurity so that your attackers don’t have the opportunity to get ahead before you. The number of cybersecurity breaches has considerably increased in the past few years. This can be dangerous, especially for companies, as it erodes their brand reliability. The less attention you pay to your cybersecurity, the more are the chances that the attackers will target you and take advantage of it because they are getting smarter. This could lead to the attackers obtaining sensitive information from your company. Attackers are constantly inventing new ways to damage the reputation and the functioning of their target company or individual but there are some tried and tested ways to commit fraud to back them up. Protection against these threats will ensure that your company’s data is much safer than before.

Listed below are nine imminent cybersecurity threats you should protect yourself from in 2020.

1. Ransomware

Ransomware attacks that hold information for ransom in exchange for money cause tremendous losses to companies every year. There have reportedly been fewer ransomware attacks on individuals and more attacks on companies and businesses. Even in the first quarter of 2019, there was a 340% increase in the detections of ransomware attacks in businesses.

Ransomware is a piece of disguised malware that encrypts all of the victim’s data. To get their information back, the victim has to pay a certain amount of ransom that the attacker demands or lose their data forever. Businesses are being targeted by such encryption malware as they have more reasons to protect their information and to offer more money as ransom. Some attackers also target high net-worth individuals, trying to break into their vulnerable cloud data in order to cause damage. The surge with cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, enables the attackers to get paid anonymously, playing to their advantage.

In order to protect yourself or your company from such ransomware, you will have to fortify your perimeter security by using firewalls. All devices connected to that network must have an antivirus program installed to scan any attachments from outside for any signs of infiltration by such encryption malware. Thirdly, it is wise to regularly back up your important data somewhere so that even if in case you lose your data to ransomware, you can still restore it with minimal losses or damage to your company.

2. Phishing Scams

Phishing attacks are a serious concern that cannot be dismissed easily even today. Phishing attacks happen when the attacker sends an email with convincing text in order to trick people into clicking the link in the email to surrender sensitive information or install the malware in their systems. This information like the login ID or password or credit card details and later be used to abuse the company’s system.

Phishing strategies are cheap for the attackers to come up with and carry low risk with them. These are so common that about four phishing emails are sent to an employee’s inbox every week on an average. The hackers employ creative strategies, going so far as to use machine learning software that can create convincing content to cheat an unsuspicious person easily. To prevent this, the employees of the company must be trained to recognize such phishing attempts. Their access to important data should be kept at a minimum and anti-phishing software should be installed to detect such emails and delete them.

3. IoT Attacks

IoT or Internet of Things refers to the various devices that are interconnected so that it is more convenient for the user and the business to streamline information quickly. Nowadays, laptops, tablets, phones, smartwatches, and other household application devices are interconnected.  But not all of these devices have strong security against incoming cybercrime attacks. A larger interconnected network means a larger scope for loose ends and risks, which is why such networks are more vulnerable. To prevent IoT attacks from installing malware in the devices, you should regularly update the firmware of the devices in your network.

4. Insider Threats

In many cases, the biggest threats to the security of a company have been their own employees. It has been documented that one-third of all the threats caused to the safety of a company’s data are insider threats. Some employees misuse their exclusive insiders’ access in order to illegally obtain and sell sensitive data to third parties. Employees cause data theft, accidentally share or leak undisclosed information, have their accounts hacked by attackers due to poor security, or are even tricked into downloading malware into their devices, in their workstations that might cause the important data they have to be compromised.

These insider attacks are considered huge threats that companies face on a daily basis because they have the potential to wreak havoc in a company. Even a single employee who is careless or has fraudulent intentions in their mind can easily cause a major data security breach. Such attacks are unprecedented and are hard to deal with, no matter how big the company.

In order to prevent their own employees from turning into threats, companies should apply a strict policy of least privilege, so that employees can access only the minimum of the resources that are enough to let them do their work. Thus, even if the employee’s account is hacked or compromised, it still won’t cause much damage to the entire system or network of the company.

5. Crypto-Jacking

Crypto-jacking is the term used when cyber-criminals hijack or obtain unauthorized access to a computer, phone, or other devices of a third party to mine for cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency is a virtual currency that can be used in place of real money in order to exchange for goods or services. These cryptocurrencies can be mined through a computer by using special programs to solve complex mathematical equations to gain a piece of the currency. The cryptocurrency obtains its value from how hard it is to find, making its value fluctuate. The more devices, the easier it is to mine for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. All the cybercriminals have to do is hack someone’s computer with code and use their devices and energy to mine for cryptocurrency. This code can be installed in the host computer through phishing email attachments and works in the background without the user of the host computer knowing about it.

Crypto-jacking can be detected by observing the speed and performance of the device. If the processor usage is high, leading to the device getting heated too soon or if the response of the device is suddenly slow, crypto-jacking can be suspected. To prevent devices from being the victims of crypto-jacking, strong security software and ad-blockers have to be installed. Anti-crypto mining extensions for browsers are also available. It is important to stay alert for any phishing emails.

6. Shortage of Cyber Professionals

Cybercriminals find the internet an easy place to obtain quick and easy money from millions of innocent people. This is because there are so many loopholes in cybersecurity that can easily be exploited by them. These criminals are in constant touch with any technological development and usually seem a step ahead of the victims. In order to deal with these cunning criminals, an equally smart team of cyber professionals are required. But there is a huge shortage for such skilled cyber professionals and both, the businesses and government are struggling to hire such people. To cope up with the shortage of cyber professionals, companies must see which candidate has the greatest potential to fit and suit the job and offer them training or an apprenticeship program so as to develop the required skills while retaining their loyalty. 

7. DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service is a form of attack where the normal functioning and traffic of a targeted website or a server is disturbed by overwhelming its network with internet traffic beyond its capacity of handling. The sources of this immense traffic are various IoT devices that had been previously attacked by cybercriminals. Malware is downloaded into these devices, turning them into bots. These bots are then instructed by the attacker, who sends them updated commands through remote control. Each of these bots sends a request to the victim’s IP address at the same time, overwhelming the server, thus causing them to deny service to the normal, genuine traffic. What makes these types of attacks extremely dangerous is that there are various categories within them. It is very difficult to separate normal traffic and bot traffic, since all of the bots stem from genuine accounts and devices, without their knowledge.

DDoS attacks can also be used as a distraction for some other forms of cyber-attacks that happen simultaneously so that they can go undetected with a larger problem at hand. The bots merge with the normal traffic and that is the goal of the attacker. There is no one way to prevent it since the more complex and layered the attack, the more strategic the defender would have to be to protect the network. An easy solution is blackhole routing. Blackhole routing means to direct both malicious and genuine traffic into a null route. The rate of requests can also be predetermined and limited to a particular number. Apart from these, a firewall can also help in thwarting a few types of DDoS attacks.

8. Gaps in Cybersecurity

Even though big businesses have shifted online, there still remains an immense number of gaps in the very fabric of the internet security system that cybercriminals happily exploit. Due to the global outreach and complex technology used with the help of the internet, one has to be prepared all the time to detect any incoming attacks. If the company does not know what they are dealing with, it becomes very easy for the attacker to compromise the company’s network and data. The accessibility of the internet makes it possible for an account or a website to be attacked anytime. In order to prevent attackers from finding loopholes, constant vigilance is absolutely necessary. The functioning must be supervised and the network monitored to detect any such threats before they have a chance to infiltrate a network.

9. AI Attacks

While Artificial Intelligence is the pinnacle of human achievements in terms of technology, it is also highly dangerous in the chance that it is turned against the very reason it was made for – to help the society. AI has enabled computers to attack other networks on their own effectively. They can lead to the hacking of networks spanning multiple devices within seconds, all because of a few lines of code written specifically to exploit the target’s weaknesses. Machine learning is both a boon and a bane for the society because when misused, it can lead to harmful effects. Companies can be discredited with rumors, fake news, and propaganda can be spread across the social media, hidden voice commands that are given by dangerous malware can hijack the workings of voice-enabled systems and appliances, leading to a breach of security. AI attacks can go as far as to cause threats to the military. To prevent such attacks, new algorithms to improve AI resilience should be developed and implemented after thorough testing and research.

Conclusion

The future brings with it many new leaps in technology, and cyber-attacks are not stopping anytime soon. It is essential to be safe than sorry in the cyber realm, and the best way to do that is to be updated about the various techniques used by cybercriminals and take preventive measures accordingly. Building up a highly resilient cyber defence system would prove to be extremely beneficial for an individual or a business in the long run.

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