What is cybersecurity and why is it important?

With the internet playing a significant part in our lives, it is more important than ever for both individuals and companies to embrace cybersecurity.

The content of this article was relevant at the time of publishing. Circumstances change continuously and caution should therefore be exercised when relying upon any content contained within this article.

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It’s not uncommon to hear people complaining of hacked accounts or that they can’t access their servers or networking systems. With the internet playing a significant part in our lives, it is more important than ever to embrace cybersecurity. This applies to both individuals and companies.

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What is meant by ‘cybersecurity’?

Cybersecurity involves measures taken to protect internet-connected systems and devices like computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets and servers from cyberattacks.

Cyberattacks are attempts by hackers to destroy a computer system or network or steal, delete or encrypt data. Hackers can also access your personal information and use it illegally or to access your money.

What are the four types of cyberattacks?

Malware

This is malicious software that steals, deletes or encrypts your data. It gets into your device when you download files from unknown or untrustworthy sources or open unsafe links. Examples of malware include Trojans, adware, bad bots and ransomware.

  • Trojans create ways for hackers to get into your network or system.
  • Adware displays unwanted advertisements on your device, especially in the form of pop-ups.
  • Bad bots are software programs that automate repetitive tasks. They collect passwords, personal information and financial data, and they log keystrokes.
  • Ransomware locks you out of your system. An attacker may demand you pay a ransom to get access.

Phishing

This is when you receive an email that looks like it’s from a trustworthy source but isn’t. It may ask you to send personal information, which you might send thinking you are emailing a trustworthy company. This information could be enough to gain access to your online accounts, especially those that use the same passwords.

You may also fall victim to phishing websites. An example is when you want to visit the website ‘example.com’. A phishing website might look identical and have a very similar URL, such as ‘exampple.com’. If you accidentally visit the phishing website and enter your personal information, hackers can access it.

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Water holing

This is when an attacker takes advantage of trusted and popular websites. The attacker finds weaknesses in the sites’ cybersecurity and uses them to deliver malware.

Of course, it is not uncommon for users to act rather carelessly when visiting trusted websites. You may click on malicious links unknowingly and infect your device with malware.

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS)

This is an attack directed at servers. The hacker bombards institutions’ or companies’ servers with non-stop data requests, overwhelming them. If you send a legitimate request to the server, it won’t be fulfilled, meaning you can’t carry out work normally. That is why the name of the attack is denial-of-service. 

The types of cyberattacks covered above are the most common. This doesn’t mean you won’t come across others. Hackers are getting smarter and devising new ways to attack every day.

How can cybersecurity risk be reduced?

It’s wise to stay abreast of the most common types of cyberattacks you might face. The National Cyber Security Centre website is a useful resource that’s kept up to date with the latest attacks.

Additionally, consider the following cybersecurity solutions:

  • Always keep your guard up when using the internet. This may help you avert phishing and water holing attacks.
  • Buy genuine and reliable anti-virus and anti-malware software for your devices. As the name suggests, the software protects your devices from viruses and malware.
  • Hire cyber specialists and analysts to install and manage servers and networking systems. Cyber analysts have the skills and knowledge to apply protective layers of security to your servers and networking systems. 
  • Enrol for two-factor authentication (2FA). This is an extra layer of security for your online accounts. Once users enter their details and click the ‘login’ button, they need to insert a two-factor authentication code. It is only accessible on a smartphone, using an app like Google Authenticator.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be considered so you should consider taking independent financial advice.

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