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8 Biggest Online Security Threats Of 2013

As of the close of 2013, the World Wide Web is still absolutely littered with dangerous programs and soul sucking spammers. Don’t believe us? Then you should probably take a moment and get acquainted with the 10 biggest online threats of 2013.

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1. Email Spam

Wait a minute. Wasn’t this supposed to be about 2013’s online threats? What is the oldest trick in the book doing at the top of the list? Well, old it may be, but the art of email scamming is just as prevalent today as it was a decade ago. Even with junk folders and spam blockers, you’re just asking for trouble if you open a message from an unknown sender. This is hardly surprising, considering that over 70% of all email messages are spam.

2. Fake Social Media Offers

If you’ve spent more than just a little bit of time on social networks such as Facebook, then you’ve probably seen those offers that claim you could win some amazing prize (such as Disneyland tickets or a new computer) simply by liking or following a post. Surely there’s no harm in that, even if the offer isn’t valid. That is, until the author of the post begins asking for personal information, such as credit card numbers, telephone numbers, and even social security numbers, so that they can “verify your identity before you receive your prize.” Yeah, it sounds silly, but whenever you cast a wide-enough net, you’re going to catch a few fish, and more people fall for these scams every day.

3. Mobile Attacks

Mobile phones are generally viewed as being less susceptible to cyber attacks than desktop and laptop computers. This may be true, but it probably won’t stay true for too much longer. Hackers and others who write and distribute advanced malware tend to focus their efforts on the areas that are most used, and once mobile smart-device use surpasses conventional desktop and laptop use (as it is expected to do in 2014), you’re going to have more and more mobile specific attacks start to appear. It’s already begun, as any Android user who has tried a few third-party apps can probably attest.

4. Digital Key Forgeries

The NSA illegal surveillance scandal made the name of Edward Snowden famous, and whether you think that the man is a patriot or a traitor, you have to admit that he’ll probably go down in history as one of the most influential “hackers” of all time. But do you really know how Snowden breached the NSA? He didn’t do it by remotely breaking into the system via an outside internet connection; he did it by forging permissions in a system he already had access to. He used the permissions he already had to give himself greater clearance than he should have had. This kind of security breach is a difficult one to defend against because it has the benefit of not tripping any cybersecurity alarms (Snowden had permission, after all).

5. Password Thefts

The internet lives off of its passwords. Whether you’re logging into Facebook, making a bid on eBay, or buying that new song from iTunes, your password is what is keeping your personal information safe from the rest of the world. However, by taking advantage of existing flaws in the systems (such as correctly answering ‘hint’ questions or contacting customer service), hackers are often able get their hands on a password, and if that same password is being used to protect your other accounts as well, then they’ve got access to your entire online life.

6. Keyloggers

Basically, what a hacker wants is to be able to see what it is that you’re typing, without being seen (or detected) himself. This is where keyloggers come in handy. A keylogger is basically a recording program that smuggles itself into your computer through infected downloads. It then secretly makes a record of every keystroke on your computer, occasionally sending that information back to its owner.

7. Rootkits

These little buggers are just about everywhere. They can even hide in registry folders and among other bits of data on otherwise totally legitimate sites. When they get into your system, they start to infect healthy files and crash them, often deleting important data as they do. Making sure that your computer virus protection is up to date is the best way to avoid getting overrun by rootkits.

8. Watering Hole Attacks

This is one of the newer and more dangerous cyber threats to rear its ugly head in the past few years. Rather than being released into the internet to infect whoever happens upon it, watering hole attacks target a specific organization or individual. The attacker observes the target, and learns which websites it most often frequents. The attacker then compromises the website with whatever malware it chooses. When the target next accesses the site, it becomes infected with the malware. This shift to targeted attacks is something to be worried about as it may mean that conventional security programs could become less effective in years to come. So, be sure to be extra careful as you wander the digital wasteland because, at least as of the end of 2013, it’s a very dangerous place.

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