THE BASICS OF CYBER SECURITY
It’s never too early (or too late) to learn a few things about good cybersecurity.
It’s never too early (or too late) to learn a few things about good cybersecurity. Although a lot of people think they understand this kind of thing, we are continually surprised at the number of people that remain ignorant of basic cybersecurity concepts. Of course, this is not meant to be an insult to those people, as they probably just haven’t been informed correctly. So, let’s see if we can do our part to correct that problem.
UNDERSTAND THE THREATS
Because we are looking at cybersecurity from a purely defensive perspective, a lot of your education will consist of learning about the various online threats. Obviously, you will need to do some research to learn more about each of these concepts, but here is a quick guide to the most common cyber-threats:
Phishing is the art of baiting people with bogus emails or other messages. These messages will pretend to come from a legitimate source and will direct the victim to click on certain links and perform certain actions. Through the use of a keylogger embedded in a spoofed web page, they can capture personal information of all kinds. Basically, anything that you type on the page will be recorded. There are other ways in which phishing is used, but this email/malware model remains the most common.
Ransomware uses encryption (more on that later) to lock users out of their devices and systems. Then, the hacker can demand money or other compensation for the password that will return access. Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest types of attack to defeat, and diligent backup habits seem to be the only effective tool here. Still, these attacks usually start with a social engineering attack (like phishing) in order to install the initial malware. Thus, they can usually be avoided with care.
3. DDOS Attacks
DDOS attacks are very simple, in most cases. Whenever you attempt to connect to a certain webpage, a request is sent to the server that hosts the page. These are usually referred to as HTTP or HTTPS requests, depending on the type of connection used. Anyway, a given server can only handle a certain number of these requests at one time. By using a coordinated effort (or by using a pre-programmed group of bots), hackers can shut down websites with this method. In many cases, this is used to buy time so that the hackers can get past other defenses and steal money and/or data.
4. SQL Injection
This kind of attack is usually used to hack databases. It basically hijacks the channels that the database software uses to search and catalog its information. Any SQL-type database is vulnerable to this kind of threat.
5. Man-In-The-Middle Attack
If a hacker cannot penetrate your system, he may try to exploit vulnerabilities in the server to which you are connected. These are referred to as “man in the middle” attacks because they are putting themselves between you and your ISP.
AUTHENTICATION AND ENCRYPTION
You should think of your online space in the same way that you think of your home: As a fortress to be guarded with extreme prejudice. Ok, maybe you don’t think of your home that way, but you probably should! In any case, authentication and encryption are two of the best ways to control access to your on-site and online systems.
Authentication usually requires the user to input data to prove their identity. This could include phone number verification via a text message, email verification, a CAPTCHA, or any number of other things. For cases where extreme security is needed, you may even want to require direct contact before credentials are issued to anyone.
Encryption is a little more extreme. It takes the data and jumbles it up at the code level. This makes it impossible for anyone to make sense of that data. Thus, even if a hacker did abscond with such data, it would be useless to them. The password generates a decryption key, which is then used to decode all the data. It works because the computer does not store the decryption keys…and thus, it is not capable of accessing those files without a password.
CLOSING THE GAPS
It is always important to keep your eye out for any gaps in your security. Whether it’s a sensitive folder that isn’t password-protected or an outdated piece of antivirus software, any little gap in your armor could create a place for attackers to strike. Constant vigilance is the key.
BACKUPS AND INFORMATION RETENTION
As we said earlier, the only reliable way to beat ransomware issues is to back up your data on a regular basis. Thus, when you are locked out of that data, you can tell the hackers where to stick their demands. Then, you just delete everything and restore from your most recent backup.
And, of course, ransomware is not the only reason to engage in regular backup of your most important data. Sometimes, computers can just crash for no apparent reason, taking loads of critical data with them. It doesn’t exactly happen every day, but you never know when such a catastrophe might hit you.
HUMAN ERROR IS ALWAYS THE BIGGEST THREAT
You may have noticed that we listed phishing as the number one threat. That is part of a wider problem, and that is the phenomenon known as “social engineering hacking.” These are methods that target the user instead of the cyber-defenses. They do this because it is much easier to trick a person. It is always important to remember that the biggest threat to your cybersecurity is human error.
This is just a quick and dirty overview of some very important concepts, but we hope it has given you the information that you need in order to get started. Once you begin learning about the world of cybersecurity, you will probably find that it’s not as complex as you once thought. Although there is a lot to learn, everything is built around simple concepts like the ones outlined above. PCH Technologies is always ready to help you learn more, so you can always call us at (856) 754-7500.