Computers and the Internet are now irreplaceable parts of people’s lives. However, there’s a flip side to all the convenience this technology provides: cybercrime.
The digital world has become a breeding ground for persistent and inventive threats to individuals, organizations, and other entities. Many of these threats are seemingly harmless but can become major headaches if left unchecked.
With cybercriminals mastering disguise and deception, they find different ways to inflict harm, steal valuable information, and inconvenience people. Thus, you must learn how to protect yourself here and now.
In this article, you will learn the top four computer threats you should know today and what you can do to step up your IT security to shield against them effectively.
1. Computer Viruses and Other Forms of Malware
Malware – short for malicious software – comes in a variety of forms. Regardless, this computer threat can severely damage both a single computer and an entire corporate network if left alone.
Some of the most common malware examples are viruses and worms, but the term also includes scareware, keylogger, and many others. In short, the word “malware” is a catch-all term for any software designed to inflict damage to a server, network, or computer.
Viruses are arguably the most well-known type of malware and computer security threat that ever existed. From the ILOVEYOU virus to the Slammer and Stuxnet, the IT world has already fought many battles with different viruses with the most unusual names.
Regardless of their unique characteristics, viruses are designed to accomplish the same thing: to alter the way a computer operates without the user’s knowledge or permission.
What’s even more annoying about this is that viruses don’t need a trigger to spread and infect a system. They can replicate and execute themselves, damaging your computer in the process.
A computer worm is another self-replicating software that spreads malicious codes in PCs. Its primary purpose is to send copies of its original codes through networks to infect other devices connected therein. It can even transfer infectious data using your email to infect the computers of people in your contacts list.
As the name suggests, scareware is malicious software that scares victims into doing something. In most cases, it comes in the form of fake virus alerts that urge users to buy suspicious anti-malware software, allegedly getting rid of those supposed threats.
Also called “keystroke logger,” this form of malicious software tracks users’ real-time activities on the computer. It runs in the background and saves all keystrokes made, passing the information on to the hacker and allowing him to steal critical information like passwords and banking details.
This form of malware encrypts files and holds them hostage for a ransom (thus, the name). Usually, cybercriminals that use ransomware ask for payment in the form of cryptocurrency. It also targets both individuals and organizations that have valuable data they cannot afford to lose.
To prevent these types of malicious software from infiltrating your computer, always evaluate free software, emails from unknown senders, and downloads from peer-to-peer file sharing sites carefully. Most web browsers also have security settings that can enhance your defenses against such online threats.
Of course, the easiest and most effective way to shield against malware is to update your antivirus program. These are designed to counteract or even prevent the effects of viruses, worms, and other malicious software and, ultimately, protect your devices from potential threats.
Spam refers to the unsolicited messages that flood your inbox. Although this can also occur in text messages, spam messages mostly spread through email.
Most spam mail is generally harmless as the sender thinks it’s the most efficient and cost-effective way of sending their message across (i.e., marketing and promotion). However, some spam emails contain links that, when clicked, install malware on the computer.
To defend against spam, you must learn how to recognize it first. Here’s how:
- Check to see the sender’s address. If you don’t recognize it, do not open the message.
- If the email addresses you with generic statements like “Hi there,” “Dear customer,” and the like, do not
- Be wary of links embedded in an email. Hover over the URL without clicking to see if the destination matches what you expect.
3. Email spoofing and phishing
Two more email risks you may face in this technology-driven world are email spoofing and phishing.
In spoofing, cybercriminals send emails pretending to be acquainted with their prospective victim. It is generally easy to do since tracing who or where the real sender is located can be quite a challenge.
In email phishing, hackers impersonate a trusted figure (e.g., an online banking portal or web service) to trick users into giving private information like account usernames and passwords. Some phishing attempts also use links or unsecured attachments containing malicious software that could infect the target computer.
Although email remains the primary target for phishing attempts, some cyber criminals have moved on to other platforms like text messages, fake apps, phone calls, and even social media quizzes to deceive unwitting users.
Although common threats come in the form of programs, the fact remains that actual people are behind all the computer and Internet security threats that users face today.
Whether it comes in the form of a malware or a direct attack to breach cybersecurity, hackers, predators, and other cybercriminals are the ones responsible for stealing, changing, or destroying digital information.
These people are the ones who use your credit card details for their own gain, steal your identity, and even lock you out of your data to force you into doing something.
Fortunately, some programs can help protect you from such people, like online security tools and antivirus software. For companies, boosting your IT security through business email hosting service and encryption also works.
Protect Your Data and Yourself
Protecting your computer means protecting the data it contains, which also translates to keeping yourself secure from digital threats.
One of the best ways to achieve this is to increase your knowledge of common computer security threats and keep yourself abreast of cybersecurity updates.
Sharon Mallorca is the Sales Manager at Create IT in Dubai. Established by innovative digital agency Create Media Group, Create IT has rapidly become the Middle East’s leading IT Support and IT Solutions company, providing the highest quality IT support and services to a growing portfolio of global brands.