The 7 Ghosts of Cybersecurity
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but we know it, among the vernacular of the younger generation, as Spooky Season. Most people are more concerned with ghosts, ghouls, and goblins than they are with the dangers lurking in the dark corners of the Internet, which is understandable: It’s more fun to think about the fake monsters than the real ones who could change your life in an instant. So, let’s make a compromise. We’re going to list the seven scariest ghosts and monsters when it comes to cybersecurity, and make it as spooky as possible.
1. Social Engineering
The definition of social engineering is manipulating people in order to get access to confidential information. Criminals have used this malicious practice for centuries but have made it even more effective in the Internet Age. Examples of social engineering include sending an email disguised as your friend or a trusted source, baiting you with free goods, and catfishing you into a fake romantic relationship. When the information is obtained, the social engineer then sells it or uses it to line their own pockets. Think of them as shapeshifters who change their form in order to get what they want out of you.
While many of the items on this list are types of software, phishing is more of an attack vector. Cybercriminals most often craft an email or text message that appears convincing but once interacted with (through clicking on attachments or links) prompts you to enter login credentials or install software that is infected with malware. Imagine someone installing a listening device into your home by packaging it in a box from a store you would normally shop with. Sounds a lot scarier now, doesn’t it?
Malware is a broad term encompassing any type of intrusive software that damages computer systems. It has many different subsets, but malware is the umbrella under which they all live. Malware is a lot like another M-word: monster. There are many different types of monsters, but in the end, they are all monsters.
We know about the viruses that can infect your body, but what about the ones that infect your computer? Cybercriminals often attach them to a file they send you. These malicious chunks of code spread from device to device, damaging your software and stealing your data. Think about it this way: How much scarier would biological viruses be if they could record your thoughts and give them to someone else?
This specific form of spyware is extremely dangerous. Keyloggers allow hackers to see keystrokes their victims make on their keyboards. This information could lead them to usernames, passwords, bank information, and other personal data. It’s as if there were someone learning all your personal secrets by reading through your texts and emails. Just the idea of it sends shivers right down your spine.
All malware is dangerous, but ransomware is the most directly harmful. This code-based demon infects your computer by encrypting the data stored on the device and forces the owner to pay a ransom to get it back. Ransomware attacks can occur on a personal or business level. To make a spooky comparison, ransomware is like a demon possessing your friend and forcing you to give up your soul in order to get them back.
7. The Dark Web
The Dark Web may not be something that can infect your computer, but it is definitely something scary. The Internet we use is only the tip of the iceberg, with the Deep Dark Web taking up the rest. This shadowy hive of villains and ne’er-do-wells is the origin of stolen data sales and many cyber attacks. There isn’t a good enough spooky metaphor for this one because the Dark Web is terrifying enough on its own.
There they are! Seven terrifying digital ghouls that will be haunting you for weeks to come. Join us next week to learn some techniques and tools that will help you avoid these possible threats!