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Cybersecurity: Common cyberattacks

Cyberattacks are becoming more and more dangerous as times has gone on.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/mattchengg/" target="_self">Matthew Cheng</a>

Matthew Cheng

March 18, 2022
Cyberattacks are becoming more common as people shift to online networks and store their personal information onto computer systems.

Statistics show that compared to 2019, malware attacks have already increased by 358% and ransomware increased by 435%, according to Forbes. These digital assaults target computer infrastructure in hopes of stealing or damaging data from individuals and organizations. Hackers generally use malware, phishing and Man-in-the-middle attacks to illegally obtain information for their personal gains.

It is imperative to understand the severity of cyberattacks and how to defend against them. Purchasing cybersecurity plans or simply educating employees on what to look out for can make a substantial impact. This article will discuss in detail the three common attacks, including how they infiltrate systems, what type of data they corrupt and how major companies are defending themselves from them. 

The most frequent cyberattack is malware: a type of application/software that can infect one single computer or a company’s entire grid. In and of itself, malware has numerous types, including Ransomware, Worms and Trojan, according to Imperva.

First, Ransomware enters the computer when a user unknowingly downloads a file from a website or link. The second the virus is inside, it starts to encrypt files, which disallows users to access their data. They are then forced to pay a “ransom” to decrypt their information.

On the other hand, when Worms are inside a computer system, they immediately begin to copy and paste themselves. Then, the Worms look for other devices through a network, replicate themselves and the cycle repeats again. Lastly, Trojans, named after the Trojan Horse, are deceptive applications that seem legitimate, but instead, they are malicious viruses that hold different types of malware depending on what the hacker intends to do.

Nonetheless, all these malware use similar techniques, but constantly updating software and installing browser guards are extremely effective for protecting an individual’s device.    

Imperva reveals that phishing, the second most common cyberattack, abuses human interactions to steal data ranging from credit card numbers to login information.

Attackers send emails and messages from a “trustworthy” source, and recipients are deceived into opening the links sent to them. For instance, a reliable link may be amazon.com/sign-in while the fake link says amazon.com/sign-im. From here, there are different methods that hackers use to obtain the user’s information.

One example is that the user is led onto a fake renewal page where they enter their password expecting to be led to their own account details. At this point, it is too late to do anything as the attacker has already taken the login credentials and can use them for unauthorized purchases or identity theft.

Another technique is that recipients are sent to the legal renewal page. However, while on the site, the hacker has already inserted code that allows them to bypass the website’s security settings and steal private data associated with the forum. To prevent this from happening, it is crucial to stay aware of any links that someone is given. As seen previously, even the smallest details in spelling or domain names can be the difference between safety and disaster. 

Coming in third place, MITM attacks occur when a hacker acts as the “middle man” between a user and whatever they are trying to interact with, according to Imperva.

To put it into simpler terms, let’s say that I have a friend, Jack, who gives me a secret letter to pass on to another student. Me being the perpetrator, I would secretly open the letter, steal the information and tell others what it says without Jack knowing.

Typically, these assaults occur in public areas where the WiFi is unsecured; this gives cybercriminals the ability to control the router and see any data exchanges that may take place.

During interception, attackers launch different types of attacks: IP spoofing and ARP spoofing.

For IP spoofing, hackers alter a website’s IP address to bait users into entering their own page. ARP spoofing is where cybercriminals link their computer’s own network address to the local network and victims blindly enter their personal data into the perpetrator’s computer.

Once again, the cybercriminal is able to steal user information without being caught. Luckily, MITM attacks are drastically easier to prevent compared to the other two methods. Simply avoid any sensitive transactions in public areas, and do not disregard “unsecured browser” warnings. 

Now knowing how harmful cyberattacks can be to one individual, imagine it for a tech giant: it’s thousands of times more severe. The minimum requirements are that employees are required to receive basic cybersecurity training, like being aware of any untrustworthy sites. This process has become especially crucial due to COVID-19 with employees constantly working at home, according to Entrepreneur.

However, this has not proved to be enough, so companies are doing much more to prevent any breaches; we will be seeing how businesses like Facebook and Amazon accomplish this difficult feat.

A few years ago, Facebook’s stock price plummeted and user growth slowed because 90 million users were exposed to third parties, according to cbinsights. Having dealt with stolen user data and leaked conversations in the past, the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, enforced stricter policies regarding data protection.

His first response was to hire thousands of new employees whose jobs were solely focused on data breaches and privacy policies. Besides increasing the staff, Facebook is also exploring artificial intelligence to adapt to cyberattacks and thus improve its data security. From the users’ point of view, the app now requests more confirmations, like an address or phone number, in order for owners to perform tasks on their accounts.

Similar to Facebook hiring more staff, Amazon recently created a new division called Amazon Web Services. This division provides cloud computing platforms and data storage for individuals and companies. Attracted by this service, many large companies quickly joined it.

Consequently, AWS added GuardDuty, a service that detects any threats towards AWS accounts, to make their systems more efficient. In essence, these giants are rapidly adapting to the cyberattacks by upgrading their security systems, whether it be pouring money into new services or products and improving their user interface.