Before the current pandemic, we used the Internet to do a lot of things. Now, however, with everyone confined to their homes, we have been doing almost everything online. We’re not only talking about shopping. People from all around the world can connect via video calls. They can even work or study online. The Internet has become an essential tool to participate in modern life. However, it’s important to remember that online connection comes with a price.
“Stay home, stay safe” is the current motto. But the more time you spend online, the greater the risk of cyber threats. During the pandemic, the frequency of online crimes has risen exponentially. According to an FBI report of 2020, the number of instances has doubled compared to previous years. Since we can’t stop using the Internet entirely, how can we protect ourselves?
- examines the six main threats you face online
- provides a list of nine effective tips on how to stay safe
- contains an infographic that is easy to print out
Top 6 Cybersecurity Threats in 2021
The FBI released a report created by the Internet Crime Complaint Center. It revealed that in 2020 the number of registered cybercrimes almost doubled compared to the previous year. Victims have lost large quantities of money due to different types of online scams. What caused such a drastic rise in online crimes?
One theory is that those who have been left unemployed have begun to make money as cybercriminals. These job seekers are so desperate that they agree to work for organized groups of criminals who scam Internet users. Unfortunately, this is the new reality that the high unemployment rates from the pandemic have created.
Online frauds are becoming more and more sophisticated. Now, successful hackers also use tactics from human psychology and social engineering. Cybercriminals find weaknesses by applying psychological tricks. They blackmail people through social media or their phones. To keep yourself and your money safe, you need to be aware of all the online threats described below.
- Phishing Attacks
Phishing is one of the most popular types of cyber-attacks. The method works by sending out personalized messages to people and inviting them to click a link. These links damage the victim’s operating system by installing harmful software or even compromising the victim’s safety through the exposure of private information.
Since most people are aware of such attacks, cybercriminals have had to develop new methods to trick users. Now, they use machine learning to create even more convincing messages. The main goal is to fool employees into disclosing sensitive information, such as passwords to the organization’s systems or credit card data.
Like phishing, this type of cybercrime is based on social engineering. Scareware describes all software that tricks users into visiting websites that contain viruses. These can be especially dangerous because they can mimic notifications from antivirus software. They show up in the form of pop-up messages that claim to have detected a virus on your computer.
Such notifications look authentic. Users don’t think twice before paying for the installation of the software that can fix the supposed problem. However, what they receive instead is malware that intends to steal private data. Often, scareware saves your credit card information so that cybercriminals can use it for identity theft.
- Third-Party Apps
Even though third-party apps may have some benefits, they still carry potential risks to your privacy. Such apps ask for your permission to access your accounts. For example, some post on your social media accounts via other apps. This saves time and seems handy, right? Not so fast! There have been many cases where third-party apps have spammed and posted messages on people’s accounts. However, that’s not the worst thing they can do. Those apps can potentially hand your personal data over to other parties. Your security and privacy are undermined with third-party apps.
- DDoS Attacks
Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are usually aimed at websites or online services. These attacks try to overwhelm a website with so much traffic that the server can’t withstand the assault. This can be in the form of an enormous number of requests or incoming messages. As a result, the website crashes and fails to operate normally.
Sometimes, these attacks are mild or demand that you transfer money. However, with attacks powerful enough, hackers can take control of huge international services, such as Amazon, Netflix, or even Visa. Another way cybercriminals use DDoS attacks is to initiate them as a distraction. While the company or organization is trying to get things under control, the criminal steals data or installs malicious software.
- Cloud Threats
The idea behind cloud threats is simple – hackers use cloud services to retrieve personal data stored there. Sometimes accessing cloud data is just a first step in their plan to perform a DDoS attack or blackmail the users. Many companies and organizations have been the victims of these attacks.
In 2020, the situation worsened. Individual users and big organizations have been reporting more and more cases of data loss through cloud attacks. Sometimes, cybercriminals remain unnoticed in the cloud system until much later. The time they spend preparing the attacks helps them evade security measures.
- Work-from-Home Threats
Since the start of the pandemic, many people have started working from home, which means that they receive less protection from their employers in regards to cybersecurity. The risks have increased for employees, which has IT specialists pretty worried. In addition to all the threats described above, users are exposed to the risks of using public Wi-Fi. Those who work from home are suffering from more phishing attacks as well. In part, this is due to the more active use of email and messaging apps.
9 Internet Safety Tips
All of these threats seem quite dangerous to your privacy, don’t they? What can you do to protect yourself from cyber-attacks? You don’t have to become an IT expert. Just following a few simple rules is enough.
Here are our main tips on how to keep cybercriminals away:
- Use strong passwords.
Considering how much information we provide online, passwords are our first line of defense against data thieves. Some users could have their whole lives ruined if their accounts were hacked. But how many of us have a good enough memory to use a different password for every account we have? Using the same password or simple combinations, like dates of birth, is dangerous.
A good password needs to contain:
- Capital letters
- Unique signs
There are tools that can make this process easier. For example, password generators provide you with solid and secure passwords in just a few seconds.
- Don’t share personal data on your social media accounts.
Sharing pictures of major life events or everyday moments on social media may seem fairly innocent. However, you should probably be more careful. Everyone has access to that information. Skilled cybercriminals have no trouble tracking down your relationships and other details about your life. They may use what they find to trick your friends into giving up sensitive information. It’s not hard to find out dates of birth, email addresses, interests, and details about family members, which makes it even easier for hackers to break into your account (see the first tip to avoid this!).
- Visit only secure websites.
Sometimes, website content may seem too appealing not to visit. You might even go ahead and create a profile, sharing your personal information. You should be careful, though, because not all websites are safe places. Who knows what malicious programs and scams are hidden there? Before doing anything, make sure you check the website address. URLs beginning with “https” are safer than ones with “http” because the letter “s” stands for security. Another thing to look out for is a small lock sign near the URL. Nowadays, web browsers are able to recognize safe websites and mark them as secure with this sign.
- Use legitimate software.
Yes, we understand that it carries a high price tag, but do you really want to take risks? Going to unsafe websites and using third parties to get free software is not the best idea nor the most ethical practice. Whenever you want to get an app or a program, you should do it through an official provider’s website, whether or not you pay. This ensures the authenticity of the software. Otherwise, you risk downloading a virus or malicious program instead. Don’t forget to keep everything updated!
- Be careful when using credit cards.
It is estimated that for every $100 spent by credit card users, about $10 is lost due to fraud. There are many dangers in using your cards for online shopping, but these tips will help you avoid those traps. First of all, try not to use debit cards that are directly linked to your bank account, and use only one card to purchase things online. Another thing to consider is adding a second layer of protection, which is usually offered by your bank. For example, not only will you be asked to put in a password, but a code sent to your email or phone will be required. Lastly, don’t forget to check if the website is safe.
- Use two-step verification.
It’s easy for hackers to guess your password and steal your personal data unless they have to verify that they are the rightful owners. How is this done? The most common solution is a process called two-step verification. For example, Google offers this option to all of its users. Instead of simply typing in your password, you also need to enter a code that is sent to your phone in order to log in to your account. Many websites and services offer these security measures (such as banks, which we highlighted in the previous tip).
- Steer clear of phishing scams.
Chances are that at least once in your life, you have received a message with questionable content. Keep an eye out for similar ones and never respond or click on any links! Typically, the message contains some irresistible offer or could allegedly be sent from a website you trust. Sometimes, they can appear as notifications about an issue, calling for you to take some action. It is essential to recognize whether the sender of these messages is someone you actually know. Always remember to follow the tips described above, such as using two-step verification and legitimate software.
- Keep your home network safe.
Even if you don’t work from home, it is still vital to ensure the security of your network. Sometimes, routers can be hacked.
To prevent this from happening, you should follow these simple steps.
- After getting a router from your provider, make sure you change its name and password. It is not hard to do by yourself, and such a measure can provide additional security.
- It is also a good idea to see whether your new router has the most recent security protocols since these make it harder for cybercriminals to hack into it.
- Don’t forget to log out.
The convenience of staying logged in to your favorite websites is high, but it is dangerous for the security of your personal information. Not only can online services keep you logged in at all times, but they can also save all of your data. Sometimes, websites don’t even ask if you want them to remember passwords. We know that it is more difficult to enter long passwords every time you enter a website, especially from your phone, but this provides additional security. Think about these issues carefully and determine your priorities. We are only here to help you.
Internet Safety Tips: Infographic
In this infographic, we have put together all the best tips to help you stay safe online. These nine tips are easy to incorporate into your daily life. Read over this list of small things you can do every day to protect your private information (it’s easy to print out, too!).
To sum up, in today’s world, you need to stay alert even when you are at home using your laptop. Being aware of the ways hackers steal your sensitive data is essential. Besides, we highly recommend making good use of the tips we provided in this article. You can start making your online life safer right now!