What are cyber threats (and how do they work)
October 1, 2019
We are all vulnerable to cyber threats. Everyone, regardless of how technically-savvy they are, can become the victim of a cyber crime.
Which is why, if we want to protect ourselves, we all need to be informed about what a cyber threat is.
What are cyber threats
A cyber threat is an activity intended to compromise the security of an information system by altering the availability, integrity, or confidentiality of a system or the information it contains.
In practice, that means criminals and other malicious cyber threat actors — many of which operate outside our borders — taking advantage of security gaps, low cyber security awareness, and technological developments in an effort to compromise cyber systems.
They steal personal and financial information, intellectual property, and trade secrets. They disrupt and sometimes destroy the infrastructure that we rely on for essential services and our way of life.
What are some common cyber threats
Cyber threats are constantly evolving. That makes it difficult to create a comprehensive, up-to-date list.
But some common cyber threats include:
- Email phishing scams: Email phishing scams are a common cyber threat for one reason: They work. They usually involve an email that looks like it comes from a legitimate source, such as a bank or a software company, but is in fact designed to steal your money or personal information. A common scam is an email that looks like it’s an enticing job offer, but is in fact trying to encourage you to provide money and personal information up front.
- Banking malware: Sometimes even just doing some online banking can be risky. If a cyber criminal installs malware onto your computer, they can then steal your information or transfer funds without your knowledge the next time you go online to pay some bills.
- Accidentally downloading viruses: Downloading files from the internet is a common activity. Some of these files are harmless, but cyber criminals can also spread viruses that appear as ordinary downloads. For example: Popular movie or song downloads can actually be viruses or related threats such as malware or spyware.
These are just examples, though. There are many different cyber threats facing Canadians.
Why cyber threats matter
Cyber threats matter because they can upend our lives – without warning. They can happen to anyone at any given time.
Common risks associated with cyber threats include:
- Threats to your privacy: Identity theft can affect anyone – including you. Cyber criminals can invade your privacy by stealing your personal information then using it to open bank accounts, shop online or offline or even collect government benefits. The result? Hours of lost time trying to clear bad credit ratings and other damages to your reputation. In some cases, it might even cost you money.
- Threats to your money: Cyber threats can cost you. Many costs associated with cyber crime can be recovered. Others can’t. Take measures to protect yourself from threats to your internet banking and investing.
- Threats to your reputation: If you’re not protecting your identity online, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to threats against something that is arguably more valuable than anything else – your reputation. Cyber criminals can use your identity to sink your reputation with gambling, paying for adult websites and ruining your credit score.
What’s more, the threats we face in cyberspace are complex and rapidly evolving. Governments, businesses, organizations, and Canadians are vulnerable. With more of our economy and essential services moving online every year, the stakes could not be higher.
That makes protecting ourselves – and our country – against cyber threats is more important than ever.
How to stay cyber safe
How can you protect yourself against cyber threats?
The cyber threats facing Canadians have never been more complex.
That’s why it’s so important to protect yourself.
Get Cyber Safe and protect your family, friends and loved ones.
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