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Cybersecurity is a crucial aspect of protecting our sensitive information and devices from cyberattacks. With the increasing number of online accounts, apps, and streaming services, it is important to be familiar with cybersecurity basics and follow best practices to safeguard our online presence. In this guide, we will discuss the fundamentals of cybersecurity, common cyberattacks, and 10 essential cybersecurity best practices that can help protect your personal information online.
What is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity encompasses all measures taken to protect critical systems, devices, and sensitive data from cyberattacks. It is crucial for individuals as well as large corporations to have effective cybersecurity practices in place to safeguard personal and financial information online.
Cybersecurity Terms to Know
Before diving into cybersecurity best practices, it is important to understand some common cybersecurity terms:
- Network: interconnected digital devices that can exchange information and resources with each other.
- Internet Protocol (IP) address: a unique numerical identifier assigned to every device or network with Internet access.
- Virtual Private Network (VPN): an encrypted Internet connection from a device to a network.
- Hacker (black hat): a malicious person who attempts to gain unauthorised access to a network to cause damage or theft.
- Hacker (white hat): a person who attempts to gain unauthorised access to a network to identify and fix vulnerabilities in a security system.
- Firewall: a network security feature designed to monitor incoming and outgoing network traffic to block unauthorised access.
- Domain Name System (DNS): a directory of domain names that align with IP addresses, allowing users to search via URLs.
- Encryption: the process of scrambling readable text so that it can only be read by the person who has the encryption key.
- Authentication: the process of verifying a user’s identity to access a system and/or data, such as two-factor authentication.
- Data breach: the exposure of personal data, such as credit card or Social Security numbers, resulting from a successful cyberattack.
These are just a few cybersecurity terms, and we will cover more as we delve deeper into cybersecurity basics.
To understand the fundamentals of cybersecurity, we need to explore the CIA triad. The CIA triad consists of three principles: confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
Confidentiality refers to the measures taken to ensure that data is kept secret and private. This includes personal information such as credit card details, Social Security numbers, physical addresses, medical records, and account login information. Cybercriminals may attempt to steal this information using techniques like man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks or phishing. Human error and insufficient security protocols can also contribute to breaches of confidentiality. It is important to use strong passwords and avoid sharing sensitive information unnecessarily.
Integrity in cybersecurity means ensuring that data remains trustworthy, accurate, and protected against unauthorised modification or destruction. This can be achieved by using end-to-end encryption to protect data in transit and at rest, setting access controls to restrict unauthorised access, and regularly backing up data. Maintaining integrity is crucial for organisations that handle sensitive information and for individuals to prevent manipulation or destruction of their personal data.
Availability ensures that systems, networks, and applications are functioning and accessible to authorised users when needed. Even with effective confidentiality and integrity measures in place, a cybersecurity system is useless if it is not available to its intended users. Availability can be impacted by natural disasters, power outages, deliberate cyberattacks like denial-of-service (DoS) attacks or ransomware, and other disruptions. Implementing disaster recovery plans and having backup systems can help ensure availability in such situations.
These three principles of the CIA triad form the basis for the development of most cybersecurity systems. Meeting all three standards is essential in protecting against cyberattacks.
6 Types of Cybersecurity Attacks
Cyberattacks are attempts by cybercriminals to gain unauthorised access to a computer network or system with the goal of stealing or altering information or extorting money. Here are six common types of cyberattacks to be aware of:
- Malware: Malware, short for malicious software, is specifically designed to gain unauthorised access to or damage a device. Common types of malware include Trojan horses, viruses, spyware, and worms. Malware can be unknowingly downloaded through infected links, files, or attachments, often through phishing emails or social engineering tactics.
- Ransomware: Ransomware is malware that locks, encrypts, and destroys personnel files, with hackers demanding a ransom for restoring the encrypted data. Ransomware attacks have become increasingly prevalent, with cybercriminals targeting organisations and individuals for financial gain.
- Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks: DDoS attacks aim to flood or crash a website by overwhelming it with traffic from millions of botnets. Cybercriminals create a “zombie network” of hacked computers, known as botnets, to carry out these attacks.
- Phishing: Phishing is a cybercrime in which scammers impersonate trustworthy sources to trick individuals into sharing sensitive information. Phishers typically use emails, text messages, phone calls, or social media messages to deceive victims into providing personal information such as credit card numbers or login credentials.
- Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs): APTs are targeted attacks that aim to infiltrate a network undetected for an extended period. APTs focus on stealing valuable data without causing immediate harm to the network. Intellectual property theft, distribution of sensitive information, and site takeovers are some of the consequences of APT attacks.
- IoT- based Attacks: Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smart home technology, are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Cybercriminals exploit the security weaknesses of IoT devices to gain access to other devices on the network. Malware attacks and ransomware are common methods used in IoT- based attacks.
Understanding these types of cyberattacks is crucial in implementing effective cybersecurity measures.
10 Cybersecurity Best Practices
Implementing cybersecurity best practices can significantly enhance your protection against cyber threats. Here are 10 essential cybersecurity best practices to follow:
- Safeguard your data: Avoid sharing personally identifiable information online, especially in response to unsolicited phone calls, text messages, or emails. Be cautious of websites or authorities impersonated by hackers and verify the legitimacy of the source before sharing any personal information.
- Avoid pop-ups, unknown emails, and links: Be cautious of phishing attempts and avoid clicking on suspicious links or opening attachments in emails from unfamiliar senders. Phishing scams can lead to security breaches and identity theft.
- Use strong password protection and authentication: Create strong, complex passwords for your accounts and change them regularly. Consider using a password manager to generate and securely store unique passwords for each account. Enable multifactor authentication for an additional layer of security.
- Connect to secure Wi-fi: Ensure that your home Wi-fi network is secure, encrypted, and hidden. When using public Wi-fi networks, use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your connection and protect your online activity from cybercriminals.
- Enable firewall protection: Install a firewall for your home network to prevent unauthorised access to your devices and information. A firewall acts as a gatekeeper, monitoring network traffic and enforcing access rules to protect your sensitive data.
- Invest in security systems: Consider investing in reliable security software that includes antivirus and malware detection, external hard drives for data backup, VPN for privacy, parental controls, site screening, and password managers. Regularly update your security software to stay protected against the latest cyber threats.
- Update your security software and back up your files: Keep your security software, web browsers, and operating systems up to date with the latest patches and security updates. Regularly back up your important files to protect them from data breaches or malware attacks.
- Contact an IT professional: Reach out to your security service provider or trusted tech professional if you encounter any security warnings or need assistance with software or hardware issues. Be cautious of tech support scams and verify the authenticity of any communication before sharing sensitive information.
- Embrace education and training: Stay informed about the latest cybersecurity threats and best practices by subscribing to tech newsletters, following security providers on social media, and reading up on privacy regulations. Educate yourself and your team on basic computer hardware terms, software skills, and security components to minimise human errors and negligence.
By following these cybersecurity best practices, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to cyberattacks and protect your personal information online.
Cybersecurity is essential in protecting our sensitive information and devices from cyber threats. By familiarising yourself with cybersecurity basics and implementing best practices, you can enhance your online security and safeguard your personal and financial information. Remember to stay updated on the latest cybersecurity threats, use reliable security software, and follow recommended practices to minimise the risk of cyberattacks. With proactive measures and a strong cybersecurity system, you can protect yourself and your digital presence from cybercriminals.