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How to Combat Cyber Attacks

10 October, 2018

Every year on the 5th of February, we help celebrate Safer Internet Day; a day to inspire a national conversation about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.

As the use of computers and other internet-enabled devices skyrocket, people are becoming more and more susceptible to cyber attacks than ever before. Criminals are figuring out new and impressive ways of stealing your data.

However, as criminals figure out new ways to circumvent existing defences, there are numerous dedicated individuals and organisations out there who are finding ways to protect and defend against attacks. At Bob’s Business, cyber security awareness is in our DNA. It’s what we do, what we love and what we believe everyone should be educated on.

Here's a quick guide on how you and your organisation can combat cyber attacks and stay safe on the internet.

What is a cyber attack?

The term “cyber attack” is a very, very broad term. A cyber attack can range from something as simple as someone being tricked into having their Facebook password stolen, to total international warfare with the intention of destroying the infrastructure of an entire country.

In this blog we will be focusing on the different types of cyber attacks that your organisation, your colleagues and you personally may encounter and how you can prevent you and your organisation becoming a cyber criminal’s next victim.

What are the different types of cyber attack?

There are many types of cyber attacks, in fact there are far too many to list in this blog, so we’ll just list off a few of the more ‘popular’ ones.

  • Denial of Service attack - An attack with the intent to shut down or cause  a web based service to go offline.
  • Man in the middle attack - An attack carried out by intercepting communications between two unsuspecting parties, without either being aware. Often used to steal information such as passwords.
  • Phishing - An attack that is often carried out by an email (Vishing and smishing can use phone calls and texts respectively), that pretends to be someone trustworthy to get you to hand over details or money.
  • SQL Injection - An attack that takes advantage of an exploit in certain databases on the web to gain information from them.

How can I prevent cyber attacks?

Preventing a cyber attack from happening in the first place is often the best way to try to do things, simply because the risk is minimal to yourself or your organisation. There are a number of measures that can be taken regarding cyber attacks. These fall into 2 main categories:

  • Prevention
  • Detection

The best way of defending yourself against cyber attacks is to avoid making yourself a target. Though most people wouldn’t, it’s not a good idea to go around bragging on Facebook that you’ve just got a massive pay rise, or won a lot of money, as this can make you the ideal target for a criminal looking for their next victim.

Generally people that fall victim to targeted cyber attacks haven’t done anything particularly wrong, they may have fallen victim to a phishing email or another social engineering exploit. This is where training comes in.

Learning about what makes phishing emails stand out from a legitimate email is the best preventative measure. For instance, banks will NEVER send you an email asking you to divulge your password details.

The majority of companies who have an online presence have the capacity to trigger a password reset for you, and they can’t see your password. The way this is done is by using a one way “hash” of your password.

Effectively this scrambles your password into a string of random letters, numbers and symbols. Then, the system you’re logging in to just sees this hash, and if it matches the one they have on record, they let you log in. These hashes are often at least 128 characters long, and a completely random mix of numbers and letters, so there’s very little chance that somebody could guess it, and it would take an average modern computer an incredibly long time to crack (thousands of years in most cases).

A bank would already have all of your details, why would they need you to send them over? It’s small things like this that most people can miss, but it’s also small things like this that can give people access to your life savings.

If you do ever receive an email from a bank, or a company you have an online account with asking you to change a password, or “CLICK HERE TO CLAIM YOUR FREE 3 MONTHS SUBSCRIPTION!” chances are, it’s false.

Prevention of cyber attacks

Training is a large factor in business security, as there can be a lot of staff members, using a lot of machines, receiving a lot of emails at once. It’s easy to blame Gary from the sales department when he opens a malicious email, but if he isn't aware of the threats and cyber security vulnerabilities that every employee now faces on a daily basis, then who is to blame?

Other methods businesses can take is simple network topology, or the way the network is physically laid out. For instance, you wouldn't have your building’s router in the lobby where any person could walk up and plug into it, would you? You should have it behind a locked door, accessible only by those who need it.

Then comes the more technical aspect - Network Intrusion Prevention Systems. The way these systems work is by stopping unauthorised access to the network. There are many ways to go into detail but a great starting place would be using a series of whitelists and blacklists on your browser to decide who has access

Detection of cyber attacks

Finally we come to Detection of Cyber Attacks. There are two ways you could do this. The first is by using a Network Intrusion Detection System (NIDS). NIDS generally use “rules”, these rules can be custom written or installed as “prefabs” of sorts, rules that already look out for the most common types of attack. These will tell the program what should and shouldn’t be happening on the network, and in turn the program will notify whoever it needs to, and or take action automatically.

The second method is simply by observing, which is generally the way most people do it. This simply means frequently checking bank statements, keeping an eye on internet speeds. However, the results of this will only really be visible once the attack is in progress or completed and the damage has been done, whereas a NIDS can track an attack from start to finish, regardless of how long the attack takes.


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