With more business conducted online than ever before, we rely heavily on our computers and the internet to help us communicate with customers, process orders and more. While this can make our life easier and help us feel more connected to the world around us, it also puts us at risk of a cyber-attack. Find out more about what cyber-attacks are, how they may affect your business, how you can help protect yourself from cunning cybercriminals, and more, below.
What is a cyber-attack?
A cyber-attack is a digital assault launched by cybercriminals against a computer or a computer network. A cyber-attack may target a single computer, a wider computer network or the data housed within a computer network. They can be carried out in many ways, but the perpetrators typically share common goals such as:
● Stealing or destroying data
● Altering data
● Collecting sensitive information to be used for financial gain
● Corporate espionage
Cyber-attacks can be launched against both organisations as well as individuals.
Types of cyber attacks
There are many different forms of cyber-attacks used by cybercriminals across the globe. Although they can vary greatly in terms of their aims and how they are carried out, most fall into one of two categories: active attacks or passive attacks. Active attacks aim to affect the operation and availability of a computer or computer system, while passive attacks will collect data without a detectable effect on the use of a computer or computer system.
From bold assaults to quieter collections of data, some of the most common types of cyber-attacks include:
Denial-of-service attacks occur when a computer system, server or network is overwhelmed with data requests or high levels of traffic. By overloading the system, it is unable to execute any legitimate requests, preventing regular users from accessing a website, a server, or a system. When many computers are used to launch the attack, it is known as a distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.
Malware refers to a broad range of malicious software. The uses of malware do vary, with some actively installing harmful software, while others collect and transmit data to an external party or look to disrupt the computer system, causing problems for the owner. Malware is generally introduced to a computer or computer system when a dangerous link is clicked, or an email attachment is downloaded. Common forms of malware include:
Sometimes referred to as eavesdropping attacks, man-in-the-middle attacks occur when cybercriminals intercept the information being sent between the user and the web service they are using. This style of attack allows cybercriminals to collect sensitive personal information, such as passwords, usernames, and payment information, and occurs more commonly with unsecured websites and compromised WiFi networks.
Phishing is one of the most common forms of cyber security attack. It typically sees cybercriminals send fraudulent emails to users, requesting personal and financial information or encouraging the user to click on a link that will download malware to their device. Phishing can be used with a variety of unsavoury goals in mind, including:
● Installing malware
● Financial fraud
Ransomware is a type of malware that is used by cybercriminals in the hopes that the user will pay a ransom to prevent personal or sensitive data being published and / or regain access to files that have been encrypted. This tactic has become substantially more prevalent amongst cybercriminals in recent years.
Cybercriminals will take advantage of unknown vulnerabilities within software or applications either before the developers have established that the vulnerability exists or before they have had sufficient time to develop a patch to address the vulnerability.
Consequences of cyber attacks
While the objectives of cybercriminals do vary, any form of cyber security attack could have serious consequences for your business. Some potential impacts include:
How to protect your company from cyber attacks
Although cyber-attacks can be a threat to your business, there are some cyber safety precautions you can take to help protect yourself. These include:
Looking for more great resources to guide you as you run your small business? Stop by our small business blog for more tips, tricks and guides or why not check out our article on how to stay cyber safe whilst working remotely.