How to Protect Against Cyber Attacks

Despite security measures being available, cybercrime grows continuously and experts predict it cost the world over $10 trillion by 2025. This paints a bleak picture, but the guidelines below can prevent you from becoming an easy target for online criminals.

Am I Under a Cyber Attack?

You can avoid some repercussions by staying vigilant and taking action the moment you realize someone has launched a cyber attack against you. The following are tell-tale signs:

  • You can’t access files, an app, or services like before.
  • Lag and slow internet speed.
  • Pop-ups that look suspicious.
  • Change of passwords or software installation without you authorizing it.
  • Online searches get redirected.
  • Money leaving your account without your authorization.
  • Changes to a browser, such as toolbars you don’t usually have.
  • Loss of control over the mouse pointer.
  • Being asked for personal information via phone calls or social media.
  • Someone phones to gain control of your device under the pretext of fixing a PC problem.

Occurrences like these suggest you’re under attack or have already been compromised, the following tips on what to do if there is a cyber-attack will help limit the damage.

During a Cyberattack

Some of the best practices for cyber security are the following, which you should implement if you suspect an attack:

  • Review your account statements for purchases, new accounts, or even loans you didn’t authorize yourself.
  • Change all passwords you use for online accounts and profiles.
  • Use software to scan your device for security breaches.
  • Switch off the device you think has been affected. Let a professional scan and clean it, or if you have the necessary know-how, do a system restore.
  • Inform relevant parties, such as employers, colleagues, and family members of the breach. They may receive suspicious information—sent by cyber criminals—from your email address and will know to ignore it.

Video courtesy of NOVA PBS.

Protect Yourself Against Cyberattacks

Although completely preventing cyber attacks is difficult, you can lower the risk of becoming a victim. These best practices for cyber security go a long way in safeguarding you against common cyber security risks:

  • Don’t share a lot of personal information online and if you need to, only do it on secure platforms. For example, https:/ websites are more secure than those starting with http:/ only.
  • Use the highest level of privacy settings on social media profiles.
  • Turn off location features in apps and programs you use.
  • Update software and apps regularly, to gain access to better security features.
  • Use computer security best practices with all passwords:
    • Use strong password guidelines: incorporate uppercase, lowercase, special characters, and even numbers in each one.
    • Password managers: they help you retrieve passwords you forget, but the information stays safe.
    • 2-step verification: this only gives access after a password and a one-time pin, sent via email or SMS, are provided.
    • Change passwords: set reminders to regularly change your security passwords.
    • Keep it private: never share your passwords and PINs with others.
  • Only access the internet via Wi-Fi networks and internet connections with good security in place, such as anti-malware, firewalls, and a VPN (virtual private network).
  • Implement biometrics scanning where possible.
  • Back up and encrypt files regularly. If you lose information because of a breach, you’ll have a recent copy of it, instead of losing all that valuable data.
  • Never click on a link in a message or email if you don’t know the sender.
  • If someone asks for personal information for purposes such as a job offer, first do a background check on the company.

After a Cyberattack

Even with strict guidelines in place to protect against cyber attacks, a skilled cybercriminal may still breach your defenses. Here’s what to do in the event of a cyber attack being successful:

  • Report the crime to the police, so you have an incident report, which may be necessary for legal reasons, or insurance claims. You can also inform IC3 (FBI internet crime complain center).
  • Contact financial institutions:
    • There may be identity fraud with someone using your name.
    • Close or place a hold on accounts.
  • Inform the authorities locally and even state and federal organizations.
  • Depending on the type of information a cyber-criminal has accessed, you may need to contact some of the following organizations:
    • The OIG (Office of the Inspector General) and Social Security Administration for social security number theft
    • Federal Trade Commission in the case of identity theft
    • DMV for theft of licenses or car registrations
    • The Internet Crime Complaint Center and USSS (United States Secret Service) may have a local branch in your area.
    • The DHS also has a department that can assist.

Cyber Security Best Practices

Along with the tips on cyber protection above, these additional best practices can offer protection against cyber attacks:

  • If you’re not using Bluetooth, turn it off until you need it again, to prevent others from accessing your device.
  • Remove adware from devices, so the people behind it can’t collect your information anymore.
  • Don’t use a public network unless you’ve activated a VPN.
  • Before using an external storage device, first scan for viruses.
  • Businesses should train employees to be cyber-smart, so ignorance doesn’t lead to a breach.

Cyber Security FAQ

What do cyber attackers want?

Getting access to people’s money is a common motivation behind cyber attacks. They may also want people’s personal data to be sold back at a ransom, or to use it for further attacks. Some cyber criminals simply enjoy creating chaos or want to make a name for themselves by creating havoc, whether for a business or on a national or international level. Disgruntled employees may also use it to get back at their employers.

How do hackers target you?

Hackers may look for vulnerabilities in systems and identify you as a potential target. They also send out phishing emails to certain types of individuals like the employees of big companies. If someone clicks on a link in these phishing emails, the hacker may get access to the person’s information, device, or entire network.

What happens when you are hacked?

The result of hacking depends on what information the cybercriminals access. They could transfer money out of your accounts or with identity theft they may use your personal information in illegal activities. They could also sell the information they obtained after hacking you, by holding it for ransom.

In Conclusion

Cybercrime is a very real concern for individuals and businesses. However, there’s a lot you can do to keep your personal and company data safe. Learn what to do in the event of a cyber attack and teach those around you about best practices so you lower the risk of the falling victim and becoming part of the statistics.

Cybersecurity Resources

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