Cyber threat is a combination of the words ‘cyber’ and ‘threat’, which is an appropriate way to define this colossal information security world. There is no simpler way to name the paradigm. Cyber threats are any threats to machines and people in cyberspace, otherwise known as the digital or virtual world that we all interact with daily. Mainly, this refers to the internet, with some exceptions. A cyber threat is the same notion as a cybersecurity threat, only shortened in the name. Cyber threats are a direct threat to the cybersecurity (safety) of computers, devices, and networks. As a result, they are also a direct threat to us, to the people. Therefore, it is important to understand what cyber threats are from a technical perspective, what they can do, and how to defend against them.
What is a Cyber Threat?
The shortest and easiest way to technically describe a cyber threat is a malicious tech-savvy individual (cybercriminal or hacker) or malicious software or code. Cyber threats can also refer to a cyber attack, which is a devastating remote attack launched by a malicious threat actor/hacker using malicious cyber tools (malicious software or code.) So, a cyber threat is either a risky persona or group of personas looking to inflict damage, as well as malware (malicious software) that lurks online. Malware is the tool of the trade for cybercriminals. A cyber threat is most often a combination of all of the above.
Cyber threat techniques are aimed at sensitive data, personal data, financial data, corporate data, and finally government data e.g. DDoS is one of these techniques. They are a threat to networks, intellectual property, and technological assets. Most often, cyber threats come from external sources but can also originate from e.g. an employee within a company. In some cases, cyber threats are not directed attacks, but result from either; a vulnerability in a computer system or human error/accidental error.
Cyber threats result in several scenarios;
- The damage of data
- Theft of data
- Extortion and blackmail
- Network vulnerabilities
- Disruption of day-to-day digital activities
- Targeted state-sponsored cyber attacks
- System instability
- Complete system compromise
Describing cyber threats is like trying to describe the weather to someone. It is a very general umbrella term that aims to define adverse events and circumstances. Potential online dangers are all cyber threats, and so it is difficult to list every possible scenario of a cyber threat. If anything, you should know that there are an immeasurable amount of cyber threats and they are never a good thing or be taken lightly. Also, there are more cyber threats now than ever before and they are getting worse by the day.
Cyber Threat Statistics
Statistics always help paint a picture about a topic, so here are quite a few crystal clear statistics relating to cyber threats;
- 1 in 5 CEOs have stated that cyber threats are the greatest threat to their organization over the next few years
- 1 in 6 companies stated that a cyber attack would mean the end of the company
- Over 60% of employees have no security awareness
- Post-COVID changes in work styles mean company-managed devices has almost doubled in 2020, while over 20% of cyber threats target these devices
- Cyber threats such as ransomware and phishing are causing trillions of dollars in damage every year
- Ransom payments are rising exponentially every year
- The total cost of cyber threats has increased from $500 billion in 2018 to over 1$ trillion in 2020
- The average cost of a cyber threat breach is almost $5 million
- A data breach resulting from a cyber threat can compromise between 1 and 10 million records
- 56% of organizations have no cyber threat risk and response plan
- The most common cyber threat techniques include weakness in encryption, cross-site scripting, and exploitation of system patches
These statistics are enough to humble anyone, certainly. Fortunately, the good news is that 2021 is seeing massive improvements in awareness of cyber threats, as well as the implementation of strict cybersecurity measures;
- Now, almost 90% of CEOs believe that cybersecurity is a high priority
- The implementation of artificial intelligence by 2023 will massively increase data security
- The use of managed security solutions like SIEMs and network traffic analysis tools is on the rise
Defense Against Cyber Threats
In a chaotic time like today where we are making a huge leap to digital transformation, extremely comprehensive cybersecurity and privacy outlook are required to match what cybercrime is coming up with. No matter the industry you are in, you are most likely using digital devices and are connected to the internet. Remember, cyber threats (cybercriminal cybercrime) are merciless, relentless, and evolving just as fast as the countermeasure is (the cybersecurity industry), if not faster. This automatically puts you at risk, even if you are just starting your company and have zero employees.
The most common reason cyber incidents occur is due to human error. Human error means; system misconfigurations, use of old software, lack of encryption, and terrible password hygiene practices. Other than human error, the worst cyber threats are ransomware attacks and phishing campaigns (social engineering scams.) How do you protect against these awful things? What you should do is have these tips handy and memorized;
- Antimalware software like Malwarebytes with real-time scanning and anti-exploit features
- Make sure your system firewall is turned on
- Do use multi-factor authentication across your accounts to add an extra layer of unique security that will thwart any serious cyber threats
- Use long random passwords, not simple predictable ones that can be easily guessed by advanced cybercriminal automated programs
- Do not open strange, suspicious emails or any content within them because then it will be too late to react
- Use a trusted internet connection, especially if you are banking online
- If you run a business, make sure to consult a cybersecurity company for enterprise assistance and look into managed security models
- Use a VPN while browsing the internet
- Make sure all your system software, apps, and services are updated
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