You’ve been hacked? Recognize and prevent cyber attacks

Cyber ​​attacks can take a variety of forms, from compromising personal information to seizing control of computers and demanding a ransom, usually paid in the form of cryptocurrency, to release that control. And the reason these attacks spread so quickly is because they can often be difficult to detect.

How do cyber attacks happen?

Understanding cyber threats and attacks is only part of the information you need to protect yourself. You should also know how cyber attacks occur. Most attacks are a combination of semantic tactics used syntactically or, in simpler terms, an attempt to change a computer user’s behavior through some shady computer tactics.

For example, the phishing emails mentioned below. Both social engineering and a type of cyber attack software – viruses or worms – are used to trick you into providing information or downloading a file that plants code on your computer to steal your information. Any of these approaches could be described as a cyber attack.

How are cyber attacks

So what does a cyber attack look like? It could be a message that appears to come from your bank or credit card company. It looks urgent and includes a link to click. However, if you look closely at the email, you may find clues that it might not be real.

Hover over the link ( but don’t click it ), then look at the web address that appears above the link or in the lower left corner of your screen. Does that link look real, or does it contain gibberish, or names not associated with your bank? The email may also have typos or appear to be written by someone who speaks English as a second language.

Another way cyberattacks occur is when you download a file that contains malicious code, usually a worm or Trojan horse. This can happen when downloading email files, but it can also happen when downloading apps, videos, and music files online. Many file-sharing services where you can download free books, movies, TV shows, music, and games are often targeted by criminals. They will load thousands of infected files that appear to be what you’re asking for, but as soon as you open the file, your computer becomes infected and the virus, worm, or Trojan horse begins to spread.

Visiting infected websites is another way to detect all kinds of cyber threats. And the problem with infected sites is that they often look just as slick and professional as valid websites. You don’t even suspect that your computer is infected while browsing the site or shopping.

Understanding cyber threats

One of the biggest enablers of cyber attacks is human behavior. Even the latest and strongest security cannot protect you if you open the door and let the criminal in. That is why it is important to know what cyber threats are, how to detect a possible attack and how to protect yourself.

Cyber ​​attacks can be classified into two general categories: syntactic attacks and semantic attacks.

Syntactic cyber attacks

Syntactic attacks are different types of malicious software that attack your computer through various channels.

An illustration of a destructive computer worm, which is a syntactic cyber attack. Getty Images

The most frequent types of software used in syntax attacks include:

  • Virus: A virus is a piece of software that can attach itself to another file or program in order to replicate itself. This type of software is often found in file downloads and email attachments. When you download the attached file or start the download, the virus activates, replicates and sends itself to all users of the contact file.
  • Worms: Worms do not need another file or program to replicate and spread. These little bits of software are also more sophisticated and can collect and send data to a specific location using information about the network it is on. A worm infects a computer when it is delivered through other software on a network. This is the reason why companies often suffer massive cyberattacks as the worm spreads through the network.
  • Trojan Horses: Like the Trojan horse used by the Greeks in the Trojan War, a cyber Trojan horse looks harmless but is actually hiding something nefarious. A Trojan horse can be an email that appears to come from a trusted company, when in fact it has been sent by criminals or bad actors.

Semantic Cyber ​​Attacks

Semantic attacks have more to do with changing the perception or behavior of the person or organization that is being attacked. There is less focus on the software involved.

An illustration of a cyber phishing of usernames and passwords; a type of semantic cyber attack. Getty Images

For example, a phishing attack is a type of semantic attack. Phishing occurs when a bad actor sends emails trying to obtain information from the recipient. The email usually appears to be from a company you do business with and states that your account has been compromised. You will be asked to click on a link and provide specific information to verify your account.

Phishing attacks can be executed using software and can include worms or viruses, but the main component of these types of attacks is social engineering, an attempt to change a person’s behavior when responding to emails. Social engineering combines both syntactic and semantic attack methods.

The same goes for ransomware, a type of attack in which a small piece of code takes over a user’s computer system (or company network) and then demands payment, in the form of cryptocurrency, or digital money, for the liberation of the network. Ransomware typically targets businesses, but can also target individuals if the audience is large enough.

Some cyber attacks have a kill switch, which is a computer method that can stop attack activity. However, it often takes hours to days for security companies to find the kill switch after a cyber attack is discovered. This is how it is possible for some attacks to reach a large number of victims while others only reach a few.

How to protect yourself from cyber attacks

It seems like every day there is a massive cyber attack happening in the United States. You may not believe it, but aside from having a good firewall and antivirus installed, there are a few simple ways to make sure you don’t fall victim to a cyber attack:

  • Keep your secrets, secrets. Do not share your personal information online unless you are sure you are dealing with a secure website. The best way to tell if the site is safe or not is to look for an “s” in the URL (or web address) of the site you are visiting. An insecure site will start with http:// while a safe site will start with http s ://.
  • Just don’t click. Don’t click on links in email messages. Even if you think you know who the email is from. Also, do not download files. The only exception to this rule is if you are waiting for someone to send you a link or file. If you’ve talked to them in the real world and know where the link will lead or what the file will contain, then that’s fine. For any other circumstance, please do not click. If you get an email from a bank or credit card company that makes you wonder, close the email and type the bank or credit card company’s address directly into your web browser. Better yet, call the company and ask them about the message.
  • Keep your system up to date. Hackers live for computers that are outdated and haven’t had security updates or patches installed in a long time. They’ve looked at ways to gain access to your computer, and if you haven’t installed updates or security patches, you’re opening the door and inviting them in. If you can allow automatic updates on your computer, do so. If not, immediately install updates and patches as soon as you are notified that they are available. Keeping your system up to date is one of your most effective weapons against cyber attacks.
  • Always have a backup. If all else fails, having all your files backed up ensures that you’ll be back on track in no time. The general rule of thumb is that you should create a backup every time you make a change to your computer, such as adding a new program or changing settings, or at least once a week. The backup should also be kept separate from your computer. Back up your files to the cloud or to a removable hard drive, then if your data ends up encrypted, you can just restore it from your backup and be fine.