Cyber threats

This resource will overview several common cyber threats, and explains some general strategies to protect yourself and your system.

What are cyber threats?

‘Cyber threats’ is a catchall term used to describe threats to a computer network or system. Cyber threats are not generated by computers - they are carefully planned, programmed and placed onto our networks or systems by other people.

Types of cyber threats

Every year, new cyber threats emerge as people work out different ways to damage or disrupt networks and systems. Below are a few common cyber threats and some strategies to avoid them, as of 2017.

TypeWhat is itWhat does it doAvoidance strategies
Social Engineering

Threats that psychologically and socially manipulate the users to divulge their private information, using human cognitive bias.

It is easier to gain someone’s trust than hacking into a system.

Fools you into giving out some very sensitive personal information, like your credit card number, to a third party.

This type of social engineering is called ‘Pretexting’. It builds the trust of the targets and thus makes them reveal personal information.

  • Do not give out personal information on the Internet.
  • If you have to give out personal information online, ask a few personal questions first that only your friend/family member would know.

The combination of social engineering and malware that is placed in dodgy websites or emails.

Denies you access to your own system by encrypting your files until you transfer money to the account specified, after which you receive a decryption key to unlock your files.

  • Do not visit dodgy websites or open email attachments from unknown senders.
  • Paying the “ransom” does not always result in your files being unlocked. The preferred solution to a ransomware infection is to wipe your system and restore from backup.

Seeks to breach defenses and exploit weaknesses in a computer system or network.

Analyses a system’s weaknesses and uses them to gain access to it.

Hacking may or may not have malicious intent as some hackers simply hack for fun or to test the system’s vulnerability.

  • Ensure your operating system and applications are running the latest updates to prevent common vulnerabilities from being exploited.

An attempt to gain access to sensitive information using the Internet as a communication medium.

Poses as an authorised person or company and gains your trust and your information.

NOTE: Spam mail is different from phishing mail.

  • Have strong passwords that can’t be easily guessed which are different for each account that you hold.
  • Check the spelling of the sender’s email address. If it is spelt wrong (e.g., it likely is not the real person or company.

Malware or malicious software that is hidden in you system. It attaches to your files and produces copies of itself to spread across your system.

It destroys data and affects your system’s performance.

Have you noticed your computer screen looks bit distorted or programs running out of control after you downloaded free music? Well, that’s because you probably downloaded a virus too!

  • Protect your system with anti-virus software.
  • Regularly update your systems and use the latest version of the browser.
Trojan Horses

Malware that is disguised and embedded within legitimate software.

It will install an executable file that runs automatically as soon as the infected legitimate software is downloaded.

  • Protect your system with anti-virus software.
  • Regularly update your systems and use the latest version of the browser.

Malware that gathers information about a person or an organisation and sends it to another entity.

An example of spyware is Adware, which monitors the user's behavior online to advertise to them.

Another example is Keyloggers, which track and log every key that you press on your keyboard and therefore can collect sensitive information like credit card numbers.

  • Protect your system with anti-virus software.
  • Regularly update your systems and use the latest version of the browser.

Malware that once infected in a computer system replicates itself and uses the system to infect other systems.

A worm uses your network to gain access to other systems and spreads.

An example of this is a link that once clicked on, sends itself to your entire contact list.

  • Protect your system with anti-virus software.
  • Regularly update your systems and use the latest version of the browser.

Tips to protect you and your system from cyber threats

  • Use your common sense. No, you will not win a million dollars online by just clicking a link.
  • Do not click on random email links.
  • Do not divulge personal information on unauthorized pages. Double-check the page even if it looks official.
  • Always check for the source of the mail or message you receive. A mail from will not be spelled as
  • Do not give your personal information via a chat application, even if you’re sure it’s a friend.
  • Always have a pop-up blocker installed in your system and mobile phone.
  • Never browse through sites that seem to be filled with ads, links, and pop-ups.

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