Technology

Staying Safe From Cyber Attacks: A Guide

The year is 2021, and almost every single city dweller has a PC or laptop. Nearly all of us have mobile phones, whether they are brand new or a fairly old model. With evolving times, even fraud and scams have evolved. Before, we had thieves breaking into houses, but now we encounter fraudulent entries into our internet banking accounts and emails!

In such cases, protecting our systems becomes very important. More so, if we are taking workplaces and high-security professions into account. Many services offer various methods of penetration testing that help one identify possible vulnerabilities in their system. 

Australia has recorded a high rate of cyber threats. There were around 44,300 phishing attacks in 2019 – 2020. The Australian Cyber Security Centre’s (ACSC) reports show that about 164 cybercrime attacks get reported every 10 minutes. This is a huge number as the money associated with this loss annually amounts to $33bn. 

What kinds of cyber threats exist? 

Computers, laptops, or any electronic device are generally vulnerable to specific hazards that increase damage. Being aware of these hazards will ensure that one can take appropriate actions. 

  1. Computer Viruses: These include malicious computer codes that, when run unknown to the user, replicate at rapid speed to infest the computer’s system. 
  2. Trojan Horses: Trojan horses are malware disguised as spam emails or texts with hyperlinks. They derive their name from the Greek myth.
  3. Backdoors: These systems seek to acquire remote access through hidden program codes that weaken the security.

In general, the computer may expound specific symptoms that might indicate its malfunctioning. In such cases, look out for signs like:

  • Overheating
  • Computer functioning is immensely slowed 
  • Pop-up windows keep appearing
  • Computer fails to install anti-virus software

What are methods to protect from cyber threats?

While one can protect from cyber threats in a home environment through trusted anti-virus sources, big companies cannot acquire maximum safety through these measures alone. For commercial use, cyber security experts suggest the method of penetration testing. 

This method, also called ethical hacking, is where a cyber security expert deliberately initiates a cyber security attack in the system under consideration. This process is used to perform a thorough risk assessment. Not only does it help identify the possible vulnerabilities in the security system (weak links, loopholes for third parties to access data, etc.), but it also helps identify the strengths of the system that can be reinforced better. 

The experts who carry this process out are usually certified by CREST. Once this process is complete, the particular system or organisation will receive CREST certifications that comply with ISO 27001, GDR and other Australian safety standards. 

How does it work?

Penetration testing follows a 5-step process to stage the simulated cyber attack:

  • Planning and gathering intelligence.
  • Scanning using Static and Dynamic analysis.
  • Gaining access by using web application attacks.
  • Trying to maintain access to measure the system’s security strength.
  • Detailed Risk analysis. 

While these steps are set in stone for every testing process, the method used differs according to the goals. Experts employ several methods:

  • Blind Testing: In this method, only the name of the invading organisation is revealed to the security personnel.
  • Double-Blind Testing: In this method, the security personnel have no prior information regarding the source or time of the attack.
  • Targeted Testing: In this case, both the tester organisation and security personnel are aware of the cyber attack. 

Pros

There are several benefits of penetration testing. Not only does it allow the organisation to strengthen the security of its software, but it also points out areas of improvement. Furthermore, it provides compliance certificates with data privacy regulations and helps determine the budget for cyber security systems.

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