A cyber attack can be as simple as an email that looks like it comes from your bank and includes an urgent link for you to click. When you take a close look at the email though you’ll see it isn’t real. Then if you hover your mouse over the link you’ll see that the web address looks fake, contains gibberish, or has names in it that aren’t associated with your bank. You may even find typos in the email or it could even look like it was written by someone whose second language is English.
How Cyber Attacks Occur
There are many different types of cyber attacks today. Understanding how they occur is only part of the information you’ll need so that you can protect yourself from them. According to Lifewire, you also need to understand how they occur. The phishing email is the most common but there are many other types, including:
- Viruses and worms can trick you into giving up your personal information.
- Downloading files including email, apps, videos, and music with malicious code or Trojan worms in them can also be malicious. It’s a well-known fact that most file-sharing services are full of cybercriminals. They upload lots of infected files that infect your computer as soon as you open them.
- Visiting infected websites is another way of picking up many different types of cyber threats. These sites look just like any valid website so you won’t even suspect that your computer is being infected by visiting them.
These types of attacks are a combination of semantic tactics used syntactically. This means they use shady computer tactics in an attempt to change your behavior.
Syntactic vs. Semantic Attacks
There are two types of cyber attacks that you must be aware of: Syntactic and Semantic.
Syntactic Cyber Attacks
These allow malicious software to attack your computer. The most common include:
- Viruses attach themselves to your files and programs (e.g. file downloads, email attachments) so they can reproduce. When downloaded the virus is activated so it can replicate and send itself to everyone in your contacts list.
- Worms: These don’t need help in replicating and spreading. They’re so sophisticated that they can collect information from your computer network then send data to a specific place. Worms arrive through other software on your network, which is why they’re so big.
- Trojan Horses: Named after the Trojan horses used by Greeks in the Trojan War, cyber trojan horses look innocuous but there’s something nefarious hiding behind them. Oftentimes they arrive in the form of an email that looks like it comes from a company you trust but it’s actually been sent to you by a criminal.
Semantic Cyber Attacks
There isn’t much focus on the software used in semantic cyber attacks. Instead, these attacks are about changing the perception or behavior of the person or organization that’s under attack. Two types of semantic cyber attacks include:
- Phishing attacks occur when you receive an email that’s meant to collect your information. These seem like they’re from a company you do business with stating that your account was compromised and you need to click a link and provide information. These are executed by software that includes worms and viruses. However, their main component is social engineering – trying to change your behavior.
- Ransomware attacks occur when a small piece of code takes over your computer system or network. From there it demands a cryptocurrency or digital payment for its release.
How to Protect Yourself From Cyber Attacks
You’re probably wondering how threat intelligence software protects your data. These search for threats and warn you before they happen so that you can stay proactive. Some of the things you can do include:
- Keep your system updated. There’s a definite reason your computer offers them. You don’t want to skip them – take advantage of them and keep your computer safe. Hackers love out-of-date computers and ones that haven’t had their security and patches updated in a long time. This is an open door for a hacker. To lock them out, make sure you allow automatic updates or immediately install them once you’re notified that they’re available. This really is one of the most effective ways of preventing a cyber attack.
- Make sure you have a good firewall and antivirus installed.
- Never share your personal information online unless you’re 100% certain the website is safe. You’ll know this by looking for an “S” in the URL (web address). So, instead of starting with http:// it should start with https://
- Never click on email links, even if you think you know how the email is from. If you receive an email from a bank or credit card company, close it and type the institution’s address directly into your web browser. You can also pick up your phone and call them.
- Don’t download any files unless you’re expecting to receive one from someone.
- Always backup all of your files so you can quickly return to normal if something does happen. A good rule of thumb is to make a backup when you add a new program or change any settings. Otherwise do so at least once a week. Keep this backup separate from your computer by using the cloud or a removable hard drive in case your data is encrypted.
There are many different kinds of cyber attacks that will take control of your computer and compromise your personal information. Your own human behavior enables many of these attacks today. This is important to understand because even the strongest, most up-to-date security won’t protect you if you open the door to a cybercriminal. You don’t want this to happen because then you’ll have someone there demanding a ransom – usually in the form of cryptocurrency – so they’ll release control. So, do your due diligence and keep updated about what cyber threats are so you can spot them and be proactive in protecting yourself.