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Security & privacy

5 types of cybersecurity threats you should know about

When criminals try to take over your digital life, it can feel like you’re in a high-tech thriller or horror movie. It has all the elements of a heart-racing film: high stakes, evil villains and an unwitting protagonist thrown into chaos. This quick guide to five types of cybersecurity threats will help protect your digital life.

Education is one of the best ways to stay protected. It helps you prepare for the worst, so you aren’t swept off your feet when hackers attack. Tap or click here for five dangerous cybersecurity mistakes you’re probably making.

Keep reading for a fun way to learn about all the scariest cyber threats of 2022.

1. Identity theft

To reflect the horrors of modern digital warfare, Surfshark crafted five movie posters. Each of these reflects the biggest cybersecurity threats of 2022. As we break them all down, try to guess which movie inspired each poster!

Check out this poster and see if it makes you think of any famous horror movies. (We’ll tell you the answer later.) This poster is about one of the most ubiquitous threats: Identity theft. It affects about one in 20 Americans each year, according to Experian.

What it is: Identity theft is when cybercriminals collect enough private data to impersonate you convincingly. They use information like your name, birth date, email address and anything else they can scrape from social media. They can commit identity theft by opening new bank accounts, applying for loans or even claiming tax refunds in your name.

Why it’s scary: Criminals can destroy your credit score or even commit crimes in your name. They can take over your online accounts by changing your password. Here’s one scary scam you should know.

How to protect yourself: Update your software and gadgets with the latest patches. Use strong and unique passwords for your online accounts. Stop oversharing personal information on social media.

The movie poster’s inspiration: “Vertigo” (1958), directed by Alfred Hitchock. If you didn’t watch the movie, spoiler alert: James Stewart falls in love with a doppelganger. The copycat theme reminded the Surfshark team of identity theft, which lets criminals create convincing copies that can trick unsuspecting people.

Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for these red flags. Otherwise, criminals might masquerade as you. Tap or click here for three surefire signs someone stole your identity.

2. Phishing is one of the most common types of cybersecurity threats

What it is: Spear phishing is a trick in which criminals pretend to be someone else to get your guard down. They often pretend to be your boss or a leading figure in your company so they can manipulate you into sharing passwords, sending money, clicking on malicious links and more. Spear phishing attacks use your respect for people or companies to infect your devices or steal personal information.

Why it’s scary: Convincing phishing emails or text messages can persuade you to click a link that downloads malware onto your device. It’s doubly frightening if you’re on a work computer: The malware can spread to your whole company’s servers. This can lead to ransomware, which grinds everything to a screeching halt.

How to protect yourself: Watch out for spelling and grammar mistakes, along with any messages that give you a sense of urgency. Also, don’t click on links or download attachments that you receive in unsolicited emails. Keep your software and devices updated, use 2FA and a VPN. If you receive an unusual request through email, check with the person who allegedly sent it to ensure it’s real.

The movie poster’s inspiration: “Get Out” (2017), directed by Jordan Peele. This movie has an idyllic beginning; everything seems fine until the tension explodes into chaos. This is similar to how your guard is down when you read a phishing email that you never suspect.

3. Facial recognition technology

This rarely comes up when looking into the many types of cybersecurity threats. But it can be a dire threat all the same. Here’s what we mean.

What it is: Facial recognition technology is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a form of biometrics — and that term refers to how we use our body to verify our identity. For example, your iPhone may need to scan your face before being unlocked. That’s an example of facial recognition technology.

Why it’s scary: Sadly, data breaches are commonplace nowadays. If hackers expose your password, you can change it, but you can’t change your face. This opens up a whole new world of opportunity for identity thieves. Imagine if they steal pictures of your face from social media and use them to get into your online accounts.

How to protect yourself: If you want to avoid this, opt out of any facial recognition verification options you see. Instead, use PINs, passwords or 2FA to authenticate your identity. Keep your face private and don’t volunteer it to governments or organizations that may share it with partners.

The movie poster’s inspiration: “Blade Runner” (1982), directed by Ridley Scott. This movie is about how machines might see us in a dystopian, high-tech future.

4. Spyware

This poster references the Pegasus Software Detection tool, which played a starring role in a massive spying campaign last year. Cybercriminals allegedly used Pegasus spyware to victimize 37 journalists, royals and activists. Here’s how to find out if your iPhone has Pegasus software installed.

What it is: Spyware hides on your devices, collecting your location, passwords, text messages, emails and credit card information. Even worse, spyware can download and install more malware onto your device. You’ll be none the wiser until your gadget is slower and hotter than ever before.

Why it’s scary: Spyware violates your privacy — and you might not even know it’s on your phone, computer or tablet. It can stream you from your camera or mic. Try this trick to know when your phone’s camera or mic is being used.

How to protect yourself: If you think there’s spyware on your device, follow these three steps. First, back up your data. Second, erase your device. Third, reset it. Here are more details.

WHILE YOU’RE AT IT… Delete these nine apps that secretly steal personal data

The movie poster’s inspiration: “Blair Witch Project” (1999), directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. The film’s iconic 1990s camcorder effect reminded the Surfshark team of how spyware can break into your phone or computer’s camera and turn you into an unwitting star.

5. Denial of Service attacks (or DDoS for short)

We saved the best for last. (By “best,” we mean “best at being annoying.” Though there’s some strong competition.)

What it is: This type of attack overloads a system by sending thousands of small data packets in a short period of time. It’s easy to do: Criminals just rig a computer to ping messages until they overload a site’s servers. This shuts websites down.

Why it’s scary: If someone overloads a server, the website will shut down. Visitors won’t be able to access it. This is devastating if you rely on a site for your small business.

How to protect yourself: Protect your router by changing the default passwords and updating your firmware regularly.

The movie poster’s inspirations: “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) and “The World’s End” (2013), directed by Edgar Wright. The Surfshark team behind these horror movie posters thought of Wright’s tech-savvy protagonists, who would know all about DDoS attacks.

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