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The COVID-19 pandemic saw a rampant rise in cybercrime by as much as 600% with a large percentage of them (43%) targeting small businesses. The growth in cybercrime is also evident from over 2 million phishing sites that Google has registered as of January 2021. This denotes a 27% increase –  up from 1.7 million in January 2020 in the span of just a year. The AV-TEST Institute estimates that with each passing day more than 390,000 new pieces of malware are detected. Clearly, there is a steep increase in the threat level. But are organizations prepared to face this challenge? Recent data indicates that only 16% of executives think that their respective organizations are well prepared to deal with cyber risk. Despite the rising threat of ransomware and other forms of hacks, over 77% of organizations do not have a cyber-security incident response plan. IT Support Vermont can help your organization out with proactive defense and incident response plans.

What is a hacker and how does hacking work?

A hacker could be anyone with the requisite computer, networking, and other skills required to solve complex technical problems. The term is generally used to denote anyone who uses their skills to gain unauthorized access to systems or networks. A hacker could break into an organization’s system to steal credentials or other valuable data, spy on the organization’s activities or simply to create a backdoor in the organization’s network that others can also exploit. Sometimes, hackers may break into an organization’s network without explicit criminal intent and just as a challenge. While others may hold the entire organization hostage in order to get a ransom.

Hackers can also be ethical such as penetration testers (pen testers) who conduct stress tests for an organization’s defenses in order to spot cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Criminal or malicious hackers, on the other hand, scope out organizations with technical or social weaknesses to penetrate their defenses. Apart from making use of technical weaknesses, hackers often exploit social weaknesses, and could manipulate social outcomes through social engineering attacks. Some criminal hackers could also use pre-designed scripts and other specifically designed software programs to breach networks. Advanced hackers are starting to make use of sophisticated technologies such as AI and ML to launch devastating attacks capable of working against advanced defensive techniques used by corporations.

How can hackers find me?

Virtually anyone with a computer system and Internet connection is vulnerable to hackers. With advanced social engineering tactics and an array of cybercrime tools and techniques at their disposal, hackers can use a combination of phishing scams, spam, and spoofed websites to make people share their sensitive information or to infect their systems with dangerous malware and compromise your digital security. If you don’t use a firewall or your firewall is down for some reason, hackers may try to access your private information directly. They could even install spyware to monitor your conversations or track your activities or compromise your website.

Top 10 mistakes users make and how to avoid them to keep you and your network safe

Clicking on emails with links or attachments containing viruses and malware

Possibly one of the most common methods of distributing malware all over the globe, email compromise remains one of the favorite methods used by hackers. These emails are generally disguised as if they are from a known source to the victim and generally contain an emotional appeal, such as exhorting users to immediately respond to a security threat, respond to a message from a co-worker or a business leader or donate urgently to a cause. The problem is that once the user clicks on the attachment or the link, it triggers a series of actions that are virtually unstoppable leading to the infection or the compromise of the system.

Probing for weaknesses

Hackers often send out malicious emails in bulk hoping to target multiple individuals at once and exploiting vulnerabilities in their firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and intrusion prevention systems to breach the defenses. The hackers essentially send out millions of emails hoping to exploit malfunctioning, misconfigured, or unpatched equipment in bulk. IT Outsourcing Vermont can help you stay ahead of security vulnerabilities.

Compromise through social networking

With people choosing to ‘let their hair down on social media, oversharing is common. Most users are under the impression that the social network platforms will take care of their privacy and security exactly how they want them to. Unfortunately, this is far from reality. Root cause analysis of multiple social engineering attacks has shown that hackers often make ingenious use of social scraping to collect sensitive personal information on individuals to orchestrate the attack and compromise entire organizations.

Malicious websites

Hackers often use phishing attacks to distribute the links of spoofed or malicious websites through emails. These emails and websites are generally made to look like they are legitimate and usually emulate the victim’s own or other well-known organizations that s/he is inclined to trust. The websites are designed to trick people into entering sensitive information such as their login credentials, social security numbers, financial information, etc. Clicking on these malicious links can also download malware, viruses, or spyware on the target system.

Insertion of malicious packets

In this kind of attack the hacker tries to leverage multiple systems to send out large quantities of data packets to a large number of recipients. The requests are targeted to a specific port. They try to identify a router or firewall with an open port in order to gain access to the systems behind the firewalls.

Hijacking ads

Malicious ads are becoming increasingly common even on legitimate websites. Essentially, the ads are embedded with malicious codes. Computer Hacking experts do this by purchasing ads themselves, conducting a server hijacking, or hacking into another person’s ad account.

Using Unknown Flash Drives

While flash or USB drives are often used for casual data exchange, inserting someone else’s drive into your computer without knowing its provenance can be highly risky. A single lost or misplaced drive can end up infecting an entire network. You should always scan and monitor your USB peripherals regularly so you know that they’re safe to use.

Webcam hacks

Hacking webcams to get remote access to your systems and maneuver your webcam is hardly new. To stay safe, you should always check to see if your camera’s light is on. If compromised, putting tape over your camera may not be enough. The hackers may still be able to monitor all your conversations through audio.

Weak Passwords

Not maintaining password hygiene remains a singular cause for concern for organizations globally. The scary thing is that with an increasing number of data compromises happening on a daily basis, a lot of user credentials are already compromised and available for sale on the black market. Staying safe requires you to run security checkups and see if your data has already been compromised. If it appears in any breach, you should immediately change your credentials on the affected site.

Delaying on Software Updates

Try to enable automatic updates on all your applications and software, wherever possible. Delaying on installing security updates can lead to costly missteps allowing hackers to exploit vulnerabilities. Security is always an evolving scenario, where patches are administered as soon as vulnerabilities are discovered. Ignoring them can mean opening your systems up to potential data breaches. For best results in Cybercrime Prevention, consider outsourcing your patch and maintenance cycles to Managed IT Services in Vermont.

Mary Loyer

Mary Loyer

Mary is responsible for management and maintenance of an adequate system of accounting, monitoring internal controlls, financial reporting, payroll and tax compliance. Mary operates her own business of 13 years as a QuickBooks Proadvisor Consultant/Bookkeeper and worked previously for 7 years with a CPA firm as their QuickBooks Advisor. A graduate of Champlain College, she has extensive accounting background, taught training seminars on QuickBooks and a course for Small Business Development. Mary enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, camping, outdoor activities, live music and walking their dog. She volunteers as a mentor with the South Burlington School Mentoring Program for 6 years and continues to enjoy this special time weekly.