For most people, topics of network security or internet security are completely shrouded in mystery. Despite that, the imminent damage of threats to these industries are palpable and have long term or lasting damage. It is not required for you to know about network security and internet security at an expert level of an IT specialist, but it’s important to know the basics and the most common and serious network security threats that can violate your access to basic things like your menial data or even your very own brand of digital identity.
Many people who are not in the IT industry are often afraid to approach the topic of network or internet security. The fear of misunderstanding the implications of network or internet security threats is one of the ways bad things could happen to people online. The presence of threats to your internet security is as real as the dangers of getting mugged or being pickpocketed. The impact is from a different dimension but the amount of damage is the same or sometimes worse.
In this digital age, investing in security measures to protect you and your company’s internet security would be money that’s well invested. A network security or internet security breach in your company’s network can be thoroughly massive and disruptive. This can also leave you with losses and possibly inflict some form of irreparable damage.
Here is the lowdown on some of the most common or popular forms of threats in your computer network that you need to know explained in simple, non-technical terms.
Trojan Horses, Worms, and Viruses
Your network security can be plagued with a worm, virus, or Trojan horse. This usually happens when you do not have some preliminary internet security software in place such as a strong antivirus product on your computer. Even with the strongest antivirus, some strains of viruses in the internet have a great immunity, especially the newer ones. Therefore antivirus companies usually request that you regularly update their software or virus signature database to keep it up to date with the latest viruses. Previously, Mac computers are immune from viruses until recent reports on security breaches were publicized and revealed that there are already a handful of viruses, albeit few, that can infiltrate the Apple line of computers.
Aside from being damaging to your computer, a worm or virus can erase or hide files, have annoying perpetual popups that disrupt your work, and propagate the virus when you use other media devices on your computer. If you are familiar with the inner workings of a computer, some viruses can get so bad that it can infect not just your files, but your master boot record. The worst and most invasive type is the macro virus that affects and infects your important work data files.
On the other hand, worms are called as such because they have files that crawl into your system and do a lot of damage. The size of a worm file is usually just three to five bytes but they are lethal to your computer if left unattended. When the damage is so bad, it can destroy your hardware. Some of the means to cut an ongoing virus damage is by reformatting the computer. Reformatting is easily done but it can cause loss of your files if you do not have a backup of your data.
Adware and Spyware
The threats to network security are as wide and vast as the measures propagated by cybersecurity professionals to maintain companies’ sense of internet security. While some websites are quite versed in creating annoying advertisement popups, presence of adware or spyware in your computer can make it a permanent thing no matter what you do. It will make your screen look like a catalog of things that you do not want or are not interested in. No amount of keyboard interventions will be able to stop the popups from coming out of your screen and this will interrupt your work tremendously. This usually happens when you download a piece of unknown or unverified software that is pre-loaded with unwanted advertisements, popups, and banners.
The abundance of free software is tempting for most people. Sometimes, the user experience of the software is invaded by numerous popups and banners and even if you uninstall the software, the adware can still remain in your system. When this happens, you end up not benefiting from the free software and your computer become infected as a result of downloading the free software.
When an adware-loaded software has data fishing tendencies that steal your data and invade your privacy, it becomes spyware. This is one of the reasons why computer makers such as Microsoft and Apple only allow known and verified applications on the web and offline to run on your laptop or desktop computer. This security measure ensures that you have a much lower risk of contracting annoying adware and spyware for your business and personal computer use. In a business, it’s often advised to create your own software using open source tools or buy proprietary software from a trusted vendor to ensure that you do not harm or expose your network to this form of invasive threat.
Zero-hour or Zero-day Attacks
Zero hour or zero day attacks comes in as quick as the attack is made. The hackers of these attacks come in quickly, do as much damage as humanely possible and bolt for the nearest exit. In layman’s terms, it involves quickly looking for holes in your network security and using the same hour or day to launch a full blown attack to exploit this area of vulnerability. This is how the zero-day or zero-hour name came about.
Despite people’s best attempts to protect their computers, there will always be vulnerabilities that can be exploited daily. Hackers who launch zero-hour or zero-day attacks typically do so after monitoring their target computer for days, weeks, or even months. They then go full blast with their hacking weaponry once they find a hole where they can insert a virus or other damaging files. This is where having an internet security professional regularly checking on your network comes in handy.
Data Theft and Interception
Data is valuable in this digital age. Social media networks like Facebook are often placed in the spotlight because of the immense data farms that they have from just users’ daily data and website usage. There are a lot of debates on how much invasion there is, especially with recent trends in data farming or data science. There is power in having stolen someone else’s data and this breech of network security or internet security called data theft makes use of inserting a form of interruption to your data transmission (e.g. email messages, social media posts, consumer data in your company, etc.) and getting a copy of all your data illegally.
The transfer of data is like a highway and hackers typically introduce bandits in the middle of the road to hijack data for their own personal use. Sometimes, experienced hackers are able to do this without noise and it can go undetected for a long time. Hackers can then use illegally obtained data to tip off your competitors about your leads, get precious access to confidential information that you will not otherwise feel comfortable disclosing and many others.
One of the most popular forms of global data interception is the famous Wikileaks that had Julian Assange seeking refuge in various countries for years. Wikileaks was able to get a lot of confidential information from government correspondence and it now has one of the most comprehensive databases of observations of many different countries on a political level. This is not limited to political exposes. There are also leaks of discreet business data such as private adult services that listed the names of men or computer users who are cheating on their wives through high-priced digital escort services. Given the trends of how sensationalized these large scale intercepts are, this will not be the last of famous data interception hacks.
One of the most profitable and sinister threats to network security and internet security as a whole is identity theft. Apart from being a sophisticated form of security issue, it involves the very personal effect of stealing your whole identity in order for an anonymous hacker to do some bad work. Sometimes, this particular threat is accompanied by offline sleuthing or investigation by the hacker of your whereabouts and habits of purchasing. The main objective is to get data such as your credit card information and use this to assume your digital identity to make unauthorized transactions online and offline.
Some of the more popular applications of data theft and interception include cloning your ATM or credit card, using your credit card to fund exorbitant purchases, and even taking over your identity digitally to engage in criminal behaviour and keep the culprit anonymous and unharmed. This is one of the most criminal of the popular threats to your network and internet security. Some people end up realizing that their identity has been stolen when there are strange transactions in their bank financial statements.
Brute Force or Targeted Hacker Attacks
Brute force hacker attack is where an individual or a group of hackers constantly target a particular network security or internet security protocol. In a documentary about the Anonymous hackers of the world (by far the largest and most popular group of hackers in the planet), they described how personal grudges of a hacker against a particular institution or person can turn into a vigilante hacking operation. They gather together in chat rooms or use other forms of communication channels to plan an attack using encrypted communication methods. They use their hacking talents with brute force and forcibly enter your network together as part of their cause or to teach someone a lesson.
To counter these attacks, there are people who have been trained to use hacking methods for good purposes. These good hackers are professional or licensed ethical hackers who would assess your risk for brute force and other hacking attacks and advise you of specific security measures for your protection. Professional or licensed ethical hackers would also check for risks by conducting hacking penetration testing.
A penetration test can help determine whether a system is vulnerable to attacks, if the defences are sufficient and which defences (if any) the test defeated. Security issues that the penetration test uncovers should be reported to the system owner. Penetration test reports may also assess potential impacts to the organization and suggest countermeasures to reduce risk.
The goals of a penetration test are dependent on the type of approved activity for any given engagement with the primary goal focused on finding vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a nefarious actorand informing the client of those vulnerabilities along with recommended mitigation strategies.
Denial of Service Attacks
In network security, your system can be overloaded by hackers to the point of flooding your system till it breaks down every bit of your internet security. Your website can be a target of DDOS or distributed denial of service attacks. Even if the attacks look random, it’s usually extremely systematized and timed with some form of relay. It involves a simultaneous hacking operation from various locations or with an automated program from the hacker that will bombard your website with requests until it breaks down and becomes inoperable. Some of the high profile DDOS attacks are able to take down massive amounts of private and government websites as a form of protest. Installation of tools like Cloudflare on your website allows screening of requests to see if you are already at risk of a DDOS attack.
What You Can Do
Despite the grim picture being painted by these threats, you are not entirely helpless in the face of this invisible network and internet battle for your privacy and security. You can begin by safeguarding your information. Your passwords need to be difficult to crack and varied for all websites. Using an easy to remember password that is uniform for all your accounts is a definite way of increasing your hacking risks. Changing your passwords as frequently as possible helps lower your risk of exposure to hacking attacks.
Aside from this, avoid posting personal information on social media like boarding passes and other information that have bar codes or QR codes in them as that will reveal sensitive information that can be used to steal your identity. In addition, try to follow the advice of not always talking to strangers on the internet no matter how friendly, because that can be used as a means to slowly but surely obtain your information for a sinister cause.