You may think that your data isn't desirable to hackers, or that you take all the proper precautions against cyberthreats, but in the ever-evolving cybersecurity arena, are you doing enough to stay protected from the next unknown threat? Let's talk layered security.
Layered security employs tiers of protection to ensure that, first and foremost, there are no easy vulnerabilities for criminals to exploit and that, as cyberthreats evolve, your protection is dynamic enough to screen threats without detailed knowledge of how they operate.
Think about it this way:
When you leave the house, you close and lock doors and windows. If you're leaving for a few days, you might have your neighbor take the paper in for you. If you have reason for concern -- break-ins on your block or valuables you want to take extra steps to secure -- you might take heavier precautions, like a home security system or a program to periodically turn the lights on and off, as if you were home. You employ a variety of precautions to deter criminals from exploiting any vulnerability in your home security. You likely learned to take these precautions after hearing about common exploits used to target other homeowners.
Like your home, your computer houses personal belongings -- information, data, & the capabilities of the device, itself. Cybercriminals target data & information for multitudinous, nefarious reasons, namely access to your finances and identity information for the same reason a thief would want to steal your belongings. Clear & simple: personal data has cash value. Stolen credit and identity information can be used to apply for fraudulent loans, make transactions, create counterfeit cards, or even extort victims for cash. It's also frequently sold to other criminals on the digital black market, to do with as they see fit.
And that's just the data. Hackers can also utilize the functionality of your device to perform what's called a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, using your machine and a legion of other hacked devices to disrupt a target's system by using so much of their internet bandwidth with "zombie" devices that real users can't get through to utilize their service.
Your accounts can also be used to expose others to the same fate, initiating spam and phishing attacks through hacked email and social media platforms.
Some hackers even write viruses exclusively for the purpose of wreaking as much mayhem as possible. We can't always rely on reason, even, to predict cybercriminal behavior.
Given that these are just a select few examples of recent "popular" vectors for cybercrime, and that new threats are identified every day, it's evident that this is not a single problem to be solved with a single solution. Cybercriminals have been learning to exploit necessary features of common programs, and the curators of legitimate web services have been scrambling to keep up. When criminals see an opportunity for access to a worthy target, they keep trying.
This is the same reason we do more than just lock our doors when we want to protect our home from unwanted intruders. Layered security is made up of a variety of measures meant to deter cybercriminals, or at least fend them off while "the good guys" work on a reliable solution.
Most people know to use antivirus software, which can detect and isolate malware, but isn't foolproof. It's also important to note that only one antivirus program should be used at a time -- multiple programs can interfere with each other! It's equally important to keep your antivirus software up-to-date. Antivirus companies work diligently to identify new threats and build their software to act against them, but if the software is out-of-date it could be overlooking malware that it doesn't yet have the information to identify.
Updates play a crucial role in cybersecurity. As hackers learn to exploit vulnerabilities, companies (think Microsoft, Apple, and Google, but also lesser-known companies that write code for important features and applications on your device) work to identify the vulnerability and patch it as quickly as possible. When you apply updates to your device, you're helping to patch those vulnerabilities.
You, the user, also wield great potential to ward off cyberattacks. Your actions, from installing updates and patches, to using complex passwords that you change routinely, directly impact the likelihood of falling victim to malicious activity.
One of the best tools is vigilance -- and yet it seems to be underutilized. Educating yourself on common vectors for malicious activity (fraudulent links in emails, suspicious downloads, unsolicited calls directing you to install a program, etc) proves to be an excellent safeguard, with the added benefit of having some knowledge of when it may be time to have your computer looked at by an IT professional. If you suspect that your device may be infected, our techs can conduct scans for malware, and take steps to remove it.
It's also important to remember to routinely back up your data! In the event of a breach, it may become necessary to wipe data from your device to restore it to a safe point. Some attacks -- called Ransomware -- may even encrypt your data, making it inaccessible unless you pay the ransom demanded by the criminal who performed the encryption. Maintaining routine backups ensures that you aren't at risk of losing important photos, documents, music, and anything else you need to access on your device. We are capable of performing data recovery services, but depending on the nature of the attack and the status of your hardware, it may not be effective. Rather than leaving it to chance, we recommend routine backups to ensure that you never lose important data.
Stay vigilant out there, friends -- but don't worry too much. Feel confident that you're more knowledgable and prepared than you were, and remember that if there is a problem, we're just a phone call away and are happy to play our part keeping our digital community safer for everyone.