10 Cyber Threat Terms Every IT Manager Should Know

by John Callon

Do you know the difference between spear phishing and clone phishing and...just plain phishing? Or adware and malvertising? Check out the list below of the top 10 threat terms every employee should be familiar with, and familiarize yourself with more threat terms in Cyren’s new online Cyber Threat Dictionary in the Cyren Security Center.

#1—Social Engineering

In the context of cybercrime, social engineering refers to using psychological manipulation to convince potential victims to engage in a type of activity (such as clicking on a malicious link or document) or divulging sensitive information (such as user names and passwords).

#2—Malware

A combination of the words ‘malicious’ and ‘software’, malware is a program specifically designed to harm a computer, a system, or data. It encompasses several types of malicious tools, including adware, ransomware, scareware, spyware, Trojans, viruses, and worms. (Download our special report on malware.)

#3—Phishing

A portmanteau of "phreaking" and "fishing," the former an early term for telecommunications system hackers, phishing is an attempt to entice a person into providing sensitive or confidential information which can be used or monetized by the phisher. In a phishing scam, cybercriminals send electronic content which is designed to trick the user into engaging in a specific activity, such as clicking a link to a spoofed web site page, or responding with data directly to the email. The victims, thinking the content is real, provide the phisher with sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, banking or financial data, company tax records, etc. Methods of phishing distribution include email, online advertising, and SMS. (Visit our phishing resource page.)

#4—Ransomware

A form of malware, ransomware limits or blocks users from accessing individual files or entire systems until a ransom is paid, almost always in virtual currency, a key enabler of the recent growth in ransomware. Notorious ransomwares include names like Locky, Jigsaw, Petya, Cryptowall, and Cryptolocker. The proliferation of exploit kits and self-service ransomware offerings is allowing even unsophisticated, untrained would-be hackers to get into the ransomware “business.” In 2017 total ransomware payments globally are expected to surpass $2 billion, double the rate of 2016, with other indirect costs (downtime, lost productivity, reputational harm, et al.) expected to exceed $5 billion. (Visit our ransomware resource page.)

#5—Botnet

A botnet is a network of Internet-connected and malware-infected devices, which have been co-opted by cybercriminals. It is used to distribute spam and malware, or launch distributed denial- of-service attacks. Botnets can be comprised of as many as 500,000 to 1,000,000 devices, and send up to 60 billion spam emails in a day. The term ‘botnet’ derives from the combination of the words “roBOT NETwork.” Botnets can be used for click-fraud, special event ticketing, online polls, and social media manipulation, as well as the distribution of spam and phishing emails. (Download a special report on botnets.)

#6—Spear Phishing

A targeted phishing attack focused on a specific person or group of people. Corporate executives, celebrities, and government officials are often common targets of spearphishing attacks — spear phishing of corporate executives is often referred to as "whaling".

#6—Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)

An ongoing set of stealthy and hidden attack processes and threats designed to infiltrate a system or network. Multiple threat types (e.g. malware and phishing), as well as different attack vectors (e.g. email and social engineering) are often used.

#7—Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks

Using the computers attached to a botnet, cybercriminals shut down—or deny service—to a victim’s system users by overloading the computational resources of the website or system with data.

#8—Adware

A type of malicious software that installs or renders advertising on a computing system to generate revenue. Advertisements are often appear as pop-ups in windows that the user is unable to close. Sometimes adware is designed with multiple objectives. For example, in addition to advertising, adware may include spyware that observes the user’s computing activities without his knowledge or the adware may include stolen certificates that deactivate the system’s antivirus or antimalware protection. Adware can affect any computing system, including computers, tablets, and mobile phones.

#9—Malvertising

A combination of the words ‘malicious’ and ‘advertising’, malvertising uses online advertising to spread malware. By inserting malicious advertisements into legitimate advertising networks and websites, bad actors are able to spread malware more quickly and effectively. Because the networks and websites on which malvertising appears are often highly legitimate, victims are easily duped since they do not have to click an email link or visit a compromised website. Clicking on a malicious piece of advertising is not always required, as systems can become infected both pre-click and post-click.

#10—Clone Phishing

A phishing attack in which the ‘phisher’ uses a genuine, previously delivered email to create an identical (or almost identical) email containing similar content, attachment, recipient, and sender email address. A fraudulent link or attachment replaces the original one. Because the email appears to come from a legitimate source, this spoofed email is used to gain trust with the victim.


Protect yourself, your employees, and your company from today’s threats

Knowledge is power! Everyone wants to surf the internet safely. And no one wants to open an email to suddenly have their entire computer system encrypted with ransomware demanding hundreds or thousands of dollars in ransom payment. Familiarizing yourself with threat terminology is a step towards a better understanding of the various risks associated with email and web usage. But don't stop there — in addition to implementing advanced cloud-based Email Security and Web Security gateways which stop internet threats before they reach your users, here are a few other tips to keep your systems, staff, and company safe:

  1. Back up (your data) regularly and keep a copy off-site—test that your backups can be restored.
  2. Provide company-wide social engineering training.
  3. Turn off network shares—Avoid mapping network drives with large file repositories.
  4. Patch early, patch often—Outdated operating systems, browser and plugins are major vectors for malware infections.
  5. Turn off admin rights for your users—Some ransomware leverages admin privileges.

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