Understanding cyber threats - a deep dive into common attacks - Waystone

      Understanding cyber threats – a deep dive into common attacks

      Cyber threats are everywhere in the online world, targeting individuals, businesses, and even entire critical infrastructures. Navigating this digital landscape requires knowledge of the dangers that lie hidden, and an awareness of how to avoid falling victim to them.

      In this article we take a deep dive into three prevalent cyber threats: phishing, ransomware, and social engineering.


      Phishing works by luring unsuspecting users with emails, texts, or even phone calls masquerading as legitimate entities such as banks, social media platforms, or even trusted friends. These messages often contain urgent pleas or enticing offers, urging you to click a malicious link or divulge sensitive information such as passwords or credit card details.

      An example of the impact of phishing unfolded in 2016, when hackers targeting US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign using personalized emails with infected attachments. This led to the compromise of sensitive data and impacted the campaign’s operations.

      How to safeguard against phishing?

      Strategies to safeguard against phishing:

      • always double-check sender addresses and URLs – hover over links before clicking to see the actual destination
      • be wary of urgent requests or enticing offers – legitimate sources rarely resort to pressure tactics
      • never share sensitive information via email or text links – instead, contact the sender out-of-band (via telephone or in-person for example) to verify requests
      • use strong passwords with two-factor authentication for added security.


      Imagine waking up to find your valuable digital files have been locked away and receiving a ransom note demanding payment for their return. That’s the reality of ransomware, malware that encrypts your data, rendering it inaccessible until you pay the attacker’s demands. Ransomware can infiltrate through infected attachments, compromised websites, or even software updates.

      In 2021, the Colonial Pipeline hack, fueled by ransomware, crippled a major US fuel pipeline, leading to widespread gas shortages and highlighting the potential societal impact of such attacks.

      How to defend against ransomware attacks?

      Defending against ransomware:

      • maintain backups of your data regularly – store them offline to ensure they’re untouched by ransomware
      • keep software and operating systems updated – patches often address security vulnerabilities exploited by ransomware
      • be cautious about opening attachments and clicking on links, especially from unknown sources
      • invest in anti-malware and anti-ransomware software for an extra layer of protection.

      Social engineering

      Social engineering exploits human trust and curiosity to gain access to information or systems. Attackers weave elaborate narratives, posing as friends, colleagues, or authority figures, manipulating victims into divulging sensitive data, or granting unauthorized access. This often involves psychological tactics such as creating a sense of urgency, playing on fear, or appealing to authority.

      A 2013 attack used social engineering to compromise RSA, a prominent security firm. Hackers posed as recruiters, tricking employees into opening malicious attachments that compromised the company’s network.

      How to thwart social engineering?

      Thwarting social engineering:

      • verify the identity of anyone requesting personal information, even seemingly familiar contacts
      • be wary of requests that seem out of the ordinary or create a sense of urgency
      • never grant remote access to your computer unless you initiated the contact and fully trust the source
      • if something feels suspicious, it probably is – trust your instincts and adopt a cautious outlook
      • stay vigilant, stay safe.

      How Waystone Compliance Solutions can help

      As technology evolves, so do cyber threats. Staying informed about the latest tactics and implementing the security measures discussed here is crucial. Vigilance is your best defense, and it is important to remember that staying safe online is a continuous journey, not a one-time destination. Keep learning, keep adapting, and stay vigilant.

      Waystone Compliance Solutions is a leading provider of cyber security consulting and compliance services to the financial services industry. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you to assess your current cyber security measures, please reach out to your usual Waystone representative or contact us below.

      Contact us

      Previous post Next post

      More like this

      Data privacy in the digital age - best practices for individuals and businesses

      Our digital lives are constantly evolving, and with them, the question of data privacy. In an age where information is…
      Read more

      Biometrics and beyond - the future of identity verification

      As we embark on the second quarter of 2024, our focus here shifts to a critical theme – ‘Securing Digital…
      Read more

      New year, stronger security - essential cyber security resolutions

      As the calendar turns to 2024, we’ll be approaching our blogs with a quarterly theme, starting with Q1’s ‘Foundations of…
      Read more

      Cyber security in 2023 - key trends and future considerations for the financial services sector

      2023 presented a continued surge in cyber attacks, ranging from sophisticated ransomware campaigns to supply chain compromises. These threats pose…
      Read more

      LinkedIn Account Takeovers and Ransom Demands - A Threat Extending to Business Accounts

      In the ever-evolving landscape of cyber security, new threats are constantly emerging, targeting our personal and professional digital spaces.
      Read more

      SEC Adopts Rules on Cyber Security Risk Management, Strategy, Governance, and Incident Disclosure by Public Companies

      The SEC has voted today to adopt new rules requiring public companies to disclose material cyber security incidents and, to…
      Read more