As the popularity of the internet and our reliance on technology grows, so does the number of cyber threats and vulnerabilities that can potentially affect both personal and business computers. 

Unfortunately, without a complete understanding of these threats, vulnerabilities, and how they can affect your IT systems, many people are left with poor cybersecurity, unprotected sensitive data, and may risk the overall reliability of their computers and networks. 

We’d like to take a further look at cyber threats, vulnerabilities, and answer some common questions about these issues. Keep reading to find out more! 

What are Cyber Threats?

A cyber threat is any ill-intended act that attempts to damage or steal data – attempts at upsetting personal digital footprint can be considered threats as well. There are many types of threats that people and businesses face, though some are more common than others. 

The list of cyber threats is long and includes: 

  • Malware: Malware comes from the phrase “malicious software” and is a general, catch-all term for any type of software that was intentionally designed to incapacitate computers, networks, or servers; and it may also be used to steal data.
    • Virus: While the word virus is used often, it is not quite as common as you’d think. Generally, a virus is a type of code that can modify a particular file or application so that when the host is opened, the virus’s code is executed. Like a human illness, a virus can infect other files on a computer.
    • Worm: A worm is a self-replicating form of malware that spreads automatically to other computers, typically through email or messaging apps. They can inject additional malware into your system, install backdoors for later access by cyber attackers, or they can modify/delete files. Some worms have no real purpose other than to deplete network and IT resources.
    • Spyware: This type of malware is often installed on a person’s computer by someone they know. As the name implies, it is used to spy on the user’s actions and may capture passwords, browsing habits, banking data, and general information.
    • Ransomware: Ransomware seeks to take control of data and encrypt it making it unusable or inaccessible unless one pays a specified cryptocurrency ransom. Often, this type of malware is spread through opening malicious emails in the form of phishing or spear-phishing (see below).  This is the most prevalent form of malware because it has the most potential of payout to the bad actors.
    • Adware/Madware: Adware is the type of malware that is typically responsible for pop-up ads, skewed web results, and slowed browsers; madware is the mobile device version. Generally, adware isn’t ‘as bad’ as other types of malware but can open the door for spyware.
    • Trojan: This type of malware takes its name from the Greek story of the Trojan horse; it acts as a harmless program or application but once downloaded or installed, it can pave the way for cybercriminals to access your computer via backdoors or by installing other types of malware. Trojans aren’t viruses and can’t self-replicate – instead, they spread by opening attachments and downloading files.
  • Phishing and Spear phishing attack: phishing is a cyber criminal’s attempt at gaining access to sensitive data by using legitimate-looking emails that entice a user to click on a malicious link.  Spear phishing is the use of these methods but using commonly available information, adds known names of executives and other employees to add even more legitimacy.  
  • Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS): cybercriminals will attempt to disrupt a network with fake traffic from hundreds of thousands of devices. During a successful DDoS attack, a website or server will load slowly (or not at all), may crash, or simply be inoperable because it can’t handle the barrage of requests in a timely manner.
  • Cloud jacking: a type of cyber threat in which a cybercriminal attempts to take over a business’ or person’s information that is stored in the cloud.

While this list of cyber threats isn’t everything by any means, it does explain some of the more common issues a person or a business may face when dealing with cybersecurity. 

Common Vulnerabilities Businesses Face

In order for a cyber threat to be successful, there must be a vulnerability or a weakness to exploit. No IT system is perfect and vulnerabilities can develop and change daily. 

The risk of vulnerabilities in cybersecurity is the probability or likelihood that the weakness will be exploited. There are millions of vulnerabilities across worldwide IT systems – however, if those systems don’t have something of value, it is unlike that they’ll be attacked. 

With this said, there are many cybersecurity vulnerabilities that every company faces including unpatched software, poor password management, unmonitored user access, compromised network access keys, missing encryption, and even disgruntled employees. 

Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Assessments

To identify and prioritize your company’s cyber threat risks, you will likely need a security vulnerability assessment. This type of assessment will consider all parts of your critical infrastructure including your hardware, software, networks, operating system, and data storage methods. A vulnerability assessment may also consider any problematic human behaviors.

After the assessment is performed, you should be able to identify any risks and prioritize them based on their probability and how they may affect your business. 

Penetration testing is used by cybersecurity professionals to simulate an external cyberattack (against your firewall). This attack can give you an idea of how well your firewall and antivirus software is performing. 

Both of these methods can be used to assess your cybersecurity as well as your vulnerability to cyber threats. 

Stopping Cyber Threats

Most of the time, IT system vulnerabilities can be managed by using cybersecurity best practices such as installing new software updates, forcing the use of strong passphrases, limiting user network access, and securing your WiFi infrastructure. 

While not every cyber threat can be avoided, many risks can be mitigated by using common sense and by educating your employees about cybersecurity.

Of course, the use of Endpoint Protection (EPP) (the new form of antivirus) is a crucial tool for limiting risk. Also, every company needs professional Cybersecurity advice to ensure most cybersecurity risk is mitigated.  
If you’d like to learn more about how an experienced cybersecurity expert can help minimize your vulnerabilities to cyber threats, give Techspert Data Services a call!