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There are countless dangers when browsing the world wide web, and even more when hosting a site on it. The first step to avoiding the dangers is to find out what dangers are actually out there, thus, today’s article is about cyber-attacks. Find out what are the different ways malicious cybercriminals are using to get access to your computer and how they are carried out.
What is a Cyber Attack?
A cyber-attack is an action which targets computer systems, infrastructures, or networks with the motive of stealing, modifying, or destroying data without the user’s consent. In this article, we will take you through the common types of attacks that happen online, as well as how to keep your system safe from them.
Do keep in mind that the baseline of keeping yourself and your computers and websites safe on the internet includes having a strong firewall and trusted antivirus or malware scanning/removal tool installed on all your devices. They will not only help you to mitigate certain cybersecurity threats, but also allow you to get rid of any malware on your computer.
This happens by sending false emails to users with the intent of getting sensitive information. This is a combination of social engineering and technical trickery where the attackers pretend to be someone or something legitimate and get your details. These emails come with links which install malware on your system or redirect you to a malicious page to provide personal info.
How to not get “Phished”
- Analyze emails and received messages thoroughly before taking any actions.
- Hover over the links in the email and check if the link redirects you to a legitimate site or not.
- Avoid clicking on any links in an email from an untrusted source.
In a nutshell, be vigilant with what links you click on and which files you download from emails sent to your inboxes.
In order to gain access to your systems or online accounts, a brute force attack can be used. The attackers will try all the possible ways to crack your password using various algorithms which are carried out within milliseconds. A dictionary attack is one way of trying to brute-force into your systems. The computer tests all the words in the dictionary. The best course of action in protection from brute force attacks would be to have a strong password (8 characters minimum; lowercase + uppercase letters; special symbols and numbers). You can test your password to check how long it will take to crack it.
It is also crucial to have a unique password for each of your online accounts. This way, even if one of your passwords gets brute-forced, the rest of your online accounts are still safe. We know it is nearly impossible to actually remember dozens of different combinations of letters, numbers, and special symbols. Therefore, we recommend you use a trusted password managing tool that keeps track of all your passwords.
Ransomware is malware that blocks the victim from accessing the system until a ransom is paid. The ransom is commonly asked to be done using cryptocurrencies. However, there is no guarantee that the access will be granted even after paying the ransom. This malware usually enters the system through a Trojan where it looks like a legitimate file in the beginning. You must be vigilant when you download anything from the internet and keep all your data backed up in case a ransomware attack occurs.
In the wake of recent large-scale ransomware attacks, some of which were carried out on even governmental institutions, most antivirus software is able to easily detect and remove ransomware and trojans that carry it. Nevertheless, downloading files from the internet only from trusted sources is a good cybersecurity measure to upkeep.
SQL injection attack
SQL injection (SQLi) goes after vulnerable websites to target the websites' stored data. This style of attack gives the attacker control over the database server of a website or web application. With this kind of control, they can gain access to usernames, passwords and any amount of personal information stored in the database. To know in-depth of what is SQLi and how to defend yourself from it check our previous article.
The single best way to prevent SQL injection attacks is to implement input validation with parametrized conditions on all possible input fields in your site, such as web forms, login forms, comments, etc. A good practice is to implement white lists instead of blacklists.
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
Cross-Site scripting is similar to the SQL injection attack but instead of attacking the website itself, it targets a specific user who accesses the website. The website is injected with malicious code with the intention of infecting only the specific user when he/she access the site. This means that any sensitive information sent towards the site can potentially be stolen without the site even knowing it. To prevent cross-site scripting from happening, check our previous article for an in-depth guide, however, here’s the gist of it.
- Escaping: taking the data the application has received and making sure it is secure before rendering it for the user.
- Validating: ensuring an application is rendering the correct data and preventing malicious data from doing harm to the site, database, and users.
- Sanitizing: implementing a filter to sanitize user input (make sure there is no malicious code present)
Each of the previously mentioned methods is not sufficient when used alone, however, a combination of all the aforementioned strategies will ensure that your website is safe from XSS attacks.
Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack
A Denial-of-Service attack floods a website with a huge amount of traffic, taking up the entire server bandwidth, thus making it inaccessible by other users. Due to the exhaustion of resources and bandwidth, the site will be unable to fulfill legitimate requests. These types of attacks are meant for either to crash the server or to introduce a different kind of attack following the Denial-of-Service attack. Read our previous blog to know in-depth about how the attacks happen and how to protect yourself from them.
Do keep in mind that the implementation of DDoS mitigation is a complex task that requires expert-level technical knowledge. For a simpler solution, there are plenty of paid DDoS protection services, such as the one offered by Cloudflare, that do all the hard work for you.
Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack
A Man-in-the-Middle attack is when an attacker hijacks a connection to eavesdrop between two parties. The two entities will have no idea that the connection is being intercepted by a third party. Most common points for a Man-in-the-Middle attack are when connecting to an unsecured public WIFI or through a malware breach in the system.
Now when you are on a public network, there is not much you can do to stop MITM attacks from happening, however, you can make sure that the perpetrator will get absolutely nothing out of it. Connecting to a VPN (i.e., Virtual Private Network) before transmitting any data through the public network will ensure that all your packets (i.e., the messages your device sends to the router) are encrypted. Thus, all the malicious party is going to see is a bunch of unintelligible symbols and your data will stay private.
If you want to protect yourself online, you need to know exactly what harm lies out there. Here we explained the most common attacks that can happen and how to mitigate them. To keep your system secure from most of these threats, keep your antivirus and software up to date, use strong passwords and perform regular backups. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below.