Malware, phishing, and viruses are all hacking terms that have already entered the mainstream vocabulary. Although the frequency of these types of attacks is on the rise, we’re also increasingly better equipped to protect ourselves precisely because we understand how these threats work and spread.
Even Grandma knows not to click on links from Nigerian princes.
The real danger lies in malicious attacks with which we are not as familiar. In honor of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (recognized every October), we wanted to explore some lesser-known terms from the world of hacking.
1. Rootkit Attacks
Rootkit attacks are some of the most dangerous on this list since they embed malicious code directly into the “root” of operating systems and software programs. In effect, these types of hacks infect the deepest layers of modern IT infrastructure. This makes them very difficult to detect.
The best line of defense from rootkit attacks involve:
- Patching all software with updates (including your browser)
- Not clicking on phishing emails — ever
- Only downloading files from trusted sources
2. Buffer Overflow Attacks
A “buffer” is a temporary storage area for data, with the amount of allocated space being determined by whatever is about to be sent or processed. When the storage space is undersized, however, some of this data can overflow, causing glitches, leaks and security holes.
If you’re lucky, maybe your files only get lost or corrupted. Hopefully, you can restore this information from a secure backup.
Oftentimes, though, criminals use buffer overflow attacks to gain access to your entire computer. From there, they can steal payment information or hold data ransom until you pay.
As a user, there aren’t many steps you can take to prevent buffer overflow attacks, since most vulnerabilities exist in the code itself. However, you can protect yourself by:
- Only using software from trusted, experienced developers
- Always keeping your software up to date with the latest patches
3. Backdoor Attacks
Developers often build “backdoors” into programs so that tech support can remotely troubleshoot problems whenever users face an issue.
Unfortunately, this access isn’t 100% authorized.
Criminals can sometimes figure out how to gain entry through these deliberately created backdoors. With high-level access to the root, the amount of damage they can inflict is virtually unlimited.
Just as with buffer overflow attacks, there isn’t much you can do (as a user) to protect yourself. The best approach is to stick with trusted developers and make sure all of your programs are up to date.
4. Juice Jacking
Juice jacking is a type of malicious attack that exploits a crucial vulnerability in smartphone design. The cables that we use to charge our mobile devices double as the cables we used to stream data.
This creates a problem if you’re ever stranded at an airport or cafe with a low battery. You might be tempted to use one of the public “charging” kiosks. However, if you plug into a compromised cable, criminals can gain instant access to your mobile device’s inner workings.
Fortunately, the fix is simple.
Always keep your phone fully charged so that you’re never stranded without power. When you do charge your phone, only use trusted cables — preferably ones that plug directly into power outlets instead of USB ports on unfamiliar PCs and kiosks.
5. Fileless Attacks
Fileless malware is a relatively new breed of malicious software that continues making waves. Unlike with other types of attacks, fileless malware doesn’t write anything to your computer’s hard drive (hence the “fileless” name). With no artifacts to scan, antivirus software isn’t very good at detecting such attacks until it’s too late.
Worse still, true protection often involves relatively technical fixes, such as:
- Disabling your computer’s PowerShell or Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)
- Checking your IT infrastructure’s security logs to see what information is leaving the network
Security measures like these are often beyond reach of the average individual. Yet even as a non-technical user, there are still commonsense steps you can take to protect yourself, for example:
- Keeping your software up to date — this is especially true if you’re on a PC system running Windows
- Never clicking on suspicious links — phishing emails are one of the primary ways that fileless malware infects machines
Why Everyone Needs to Learn Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity isn’t a new concept. Yet in years past, the fight has always taken place behind the scenes — with criminals and security experts each trying to stay one step ahead of the other.
The rest of us could afford to relax on the sidelines and live our lives.
In the Internet of Things, we all have a role to play. You might not have the technical expertise to fight on the front lines. However, it is more important than ever to become educated about the threats out there — and what steps you can take to thwart potential attacks before they disrupt your personal, financial, and professional lives.
For tips on getting started, click below to read this valuable resource. Stay safe.