The late 1990s saw personal devices become less of a luxury and more of an expectation. This trend continued throughout the 2000s and 2010s until now, where the majority of citizens own at least one personal device, from a phone to a laptop.
This has allowed many people to stay connected through the Internet, more efficiently do their work, and stay entertained during downtimes (especially during this pandemic). However, this come with its own share of problems — security.
See, there’s a reason why many OEM manufacturers offer anti-virus programs for free with the purchase of one of their devices (see: Best Buy and Web-Root offer). Security is vital, and there’s only so much OEM manufacturers can do from their end.
Unfortunately, cybercriminals—and, to an extent, their software and tricks—have grown more and more complex. It can be hard to tell what’s a threat and what’s not! It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that anti-virus software alone isn’t enough to protect users from these threats.
But how have these cyber-threats grown more complex? What threats affect the majority of users today? Let’s go over a few of the more common threats found today.
The Most Common Security Threats Facing Users in 2020
This list will contain cyber-threats that affect the majority of users today or threats that present a major risk to the security of users. Not every threat will be listed here, so don’t take this list as a complete set of cyber-threats.
What is the driving factor for most cybercriminals? The joy they find in compromising someone’s device security and forcing them to seek tech help? The complex, puzzle-like nature of employing malware in order to accomplish their goal?
The answer is money.
There’s lots of money to make in the cybercriminal world. Nowhere was this better exemplified than the 2017 WannaCry attack. This attack infected and locked-up hundreds of thousands of computers, seemingly overnight.
According to some sources, millions of devices still remain at risk of this kind of attack. This is because ransomware attacks are highly infectious and have grown ever more popular due to the success of WannaCry.
Ransomware, for those who don’t know, locks up a device and asks the user to pay a certain sum of money (usually done through Bitcoin). If the user fails to pay in the allotted time, hackers will erase their data and the user will not regain control.
Paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee control back to the victim, however. Usually, the hackers at play receive the money and don’t do anything to give victims their device back.
Along with being highly infectious, ransomware can come from anywhere, so it represents a major threat to many users today.
Scammers have made their mark throughout history. Since the inception of currency has scammers attempted to swindle their fellow man in order to make an extra buck. The Internet hasn’t changed anything, obviously. In fact, I’d say the Internet has done nothing but increase the presence of scammers around the world.
The Internet is amazing for communication and staying in touch with people around the world, but communication is where scammers excel. Unfortunately, the past two decades have seen scammers become more and more comfortable on the Internet, some not even attempting to hide.
Phishing scams are a major risk to every user on the Internet. Phishing involves a scammer or a group of scammers using social engineering and manipulation in order to trick a potential victim into giving out their personal information. This information can include addresses, real names, phone numbers, or more financial information such as social security numbers, credit card info, and vice versa.
Some cybercriminals focus on the long term. Some cyber criminals aim to not only wreak as much havoc as possible but to use other people to do so. One way in which cybercriminals accomplish this is by using what is known as a “bot-net”.
Modern computers are efficient in most tasks. Certain tasks, however, require more power than one computer can give. For cybercriminals, this task may be a large-scale DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, attacks that slow down or shut down a network.
To get the power needed, cybercriminals spread malware to multiple computers, the malware setting up each device in a “network” of sorts. Once the malware distribution is finished, the cybercriminal has control over each device infected.
Bot-nets are dangerous because it can be hard to tell if your device has been infected with one or not. The only telltale signs of a bot-net infection are if your computer’s resources are being maxed out (100% CPU/GPU power) or if there’s a strange program in Task Manager.
3 Ways Users Can Keep Their Devices Secure in 2020
Knowing the enemy is key to fighting back against it. In the same way, knowing what cyber-threats exist on the Internet is vital to securing your devices against them.
But where do you start? There are so many ways to keep your devices secure while on the Internet that deciding what software you need can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are a few safe bets for any user.
Ensuring Anonymity on the Internet With a VPN
One thing many users don’t realize is that their activity, their digital footprint, is available for many people to see. Network owners can easily log your data and information. With the proper tools, even cybercriminals can observe and track you while you jump from website to website.
This is why anonymity is important for keeping your device secure. Fortunately, there are ways to stay anonymous, one of them being a VPN.
A VPN, short for Virtual Private Network, allows users to remain 100% anonymous while scouring the Internet or using a public network.
The way VPNs work is by routing a user’s data through one of the VPN’s servers instead of the ISP’s servers. This enables the VPN to hide your IP address and encrypt the data your device sends out to the Internet. This process makes the user totally anonymous.
VPNs are great for users who often go out and use public networks or share a network with other people. Using one in your daily routine is as easy as clicking the “On” button many VPNs employ in their software. After that, you’ll be totally anonymous!
Keeping Software Updated
Cybercriminals and the malware they create become more complex as time goes on; it’s impossible for developers to account for threats that don’t even exist yet. But that’s why we have software updates.
All software, from minor applications to entire operating systems, constantly ship out updates with security fixes and patches. Constantly updating your applications and system can be annoying, but developers are constantly on the watch for new cyber-threats, and these updates allow them to fix any potential vulnerabilities.
Scheduling updates or making sure to check for updates once or twice a day will go far in maintaining your privacy on the Internet.
Practicing Proper Cybersecurity Etiquette
The tech industry has a saying for human error: PEBCAK. PEBCAK stands for “Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard” and can describe any tech error that one can trace back to the user.
Unfortunately, many data breaches, ransomware attacks, and various other cyber-attacks only happen due to user error. This is why it’s important for you to read up on proper security practices.
Learn how to identify phishing scams so you don’t buy into them. Take the advice given here to heart in order to avoid cyber-attacks. Educating yourself on proper cybersecurity etiquette will go a long way in protecting your security.
As cyber criminals grow smarter—as their methods evolve—it is vital that you keep your devices secure. Hackers will not wait for you to install a VPN or to update your phone before attempting an attack.
Start tightening up your security now. There is no time to wait when it comes to cybersecurity!