(also cybersecurity threat)
A cyberthreat is any activity, device, software, or person that has the potential to steal, alter, deny, or delete data without permission. Cyberthreats are a major concern for today’s internet users because successful attacks can lead to sensitive information being leaked, financial losses, and the disruption of vital services.
Cyberthreats may be active (such as attempting to hack a specific computer network) or passive (such as leaving a malware-infected file on a popular website for anyone to download.)
Real cyberthreat examples
- Malware: Once installed, viruses, trojans, and other forms of malware can disrupt the host system or open it to further attack. Hackers often hide malware in highly desirable (and otherwise functional) files on online sharing platforms — once the file is executed, it will secretly install its payload on the device.
- Social engineering: The weakest link in any digital security system is the user — no amount of encryption will protect anyone who just gives away their password. Social engineering attacks (like phishing) take advantage of the victim’s trust and trick them into revealing valuable information or performing a detrimental action.
- Exploits: Programming oversights during development or subsequent patching can leave dangerous vulnerabilities in the code. Hackers can exploit these security loopholes to escalate their privileges within the vulnerable system and steal data.
- Use a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN) like NordVPN encrypts your online traffic, preventing others from spying on your data in transit.
- Use an antivirus. Dedicated antivirus software can detect, quarantine, and remove viruses from the files you download, preventing hackers from gaining a foothold or opening the doors to your system.
- Don’t open suspicious attachments. Many cyberthreats like phishing and spam attacks deliver their payload when the victim downloads an infected file attached to an email message.
- Don’t click suspicious links. Many shady websites automatically run scripts when loading the page to compromise the user’s device. Cybersecurity tools like NordVPN’s Threat Protection feature can identify and block dangerous links to protect unwary users.