Top-notch security and site maintenance are services we are proud to provide at V3 Media for good reason. The biggest reason is we care about the well-being of every client we build and develop a website for. Unfortunately, we’ve encountered some cases where the business’ website in question was hacked all too easily. Usually, the cause was either a severe lack of security measures in place, or that the threat was so sneakily put together that it infected the website and computer system.

We’ve talked about how to prevent a website from being hacked before, and you should definitely read our post. One thing we didn’t really talk about though is how to identify these potential threats in the first place. Prevention and awareness are both incredibly important to your business’s security and safety. So today, we’re going to look at how these threats appear in everyday life and how you can avoid these cyber threats altogether.

A Few Notes Before We Start

Most of what we talk about in this article can be avoided altogether if you’re signed up for secure hosting and site maintenance at V3 Media. Our plans include an inexpensive upgrade to an SSL address for your website and email, routine backups, regular scanning for viruses and spam in e-mail, and professional tech support. This will protect your website and business from the threats we’re going to talk about today.

However, if you’re browsing the Internet or checking your e-mail, and you or your employees do not have extra security measures in place, that is when the most dangerous cyber threats can appear. It only takes one click on a link by an employee to compromise the system. We believe there is no such thing as being too careful when it comes to web security, hence why we’re discussing this in the first place.

Without further ado, the threats.

Threat 1: Pop-up Advertisements

Tell us if this sounds familiar: you click on your favourite website, but then a pop-up advertisement appears and says something like the following (not exactly, but similar):

  • You’ve won a prize from Shaw! Click here to accept
  • Your computer has been attacked! Click here to fix the problem
  • We’ve detected an issue with Adobe Flash Player. Click the box here to resolve the issue

None of these are to be trusted! The worst thing about these pop-ups is they infect your site and computer if you click on them. Check for the following to see if they are legitimately a threat:

  • Poor spelling. Many of these pop-ups are made by criminals who use fake phone numbers and poor grammar.
  • A too-good-to-be-true message.
  • A message telling you your computer needs to be fixed.
  • The e-mail or message is being sent to everyone on your e-mail contact list, and this doesn’t read like it’s usually from a trusted source.

The thing about your computer is, it never tells you anything; you tell your computer what to do. Anything that is saying to you in a pop-up that it needs fixing is a potential scammer. (For the record, this is very different from a professional telling you when you need to fix it!)

If you see these appear when you click on a website link, close the pop-up; whatever you do, do not click on the image that appears itself! If you’re seeing pop-ups no matter what you do, or where you browse online, that’s a red flag your computer has been infected. If scanning your computer with a malware or antivirus program does not remove the pop-ups, then you need to take your computer to a professional.

Pop-ups are annoying, but they can be avoided. What comes next is much more dangerous, however…

Threat 2: Ransomware

Yes, let’s talk about the big scary “R” word for a minute. Ransomware basically encrypts your data and then holds it ransom until you pay the cybercriminal money. The message is usually delivered to you via a pop-up window on the infected computer. One of the most infamous examples is “WannaCry”, which demands that its users pay up to $300 in bitcoin currency. If it is not paid in 3 days, the amount is doubled, and if not paid within a week’s time, the files it holds ransom are deleted.

Now that we’ve all collectively held our breath, let it out for a second because there is good news. There are some ways you can prevent ransomware from ever touching your business’s computer system.

  • One is to update your computer’s operating system and antivirus software, and keep them both up to date regularly.
  • You can also avoid ransomware by deleting any suspicious-looking e-mails that are requesting you download an attachment from Microsoft, or checking out a cool screensaver, for example.
  • Be extra suspicious if the attachment e-mails are asking you to enable macros to use the content.
  • Regular backups of your most important data and files are the single most effective strategy you can use against ransomware.

Threat 3: Scareware

In addition to ransomware, we need to be worried about scareware. Scareware is malicious software that causes a voice to cry out to you “WARNING! Your computer has a virus!” if you happen to click on a website that has been infected, for an example. What’s really scary about this cyber threat is that it works. It triggers your sense of fear, causing you to call the phone number to Microsoft (hence why it’s such a sneaky attack) and then providing you with a program to download and “fix” your computer which is in fact malware.

If you receive this screen, whatever you do, do not fall victim by calling the phone number. What you need to do instead is to open your computer’s Task Manager (press Alt + Ctrl + Del on your keyboard) and then close the browser window from there. Once you’re finished, turn off your Wi-Fi to prevent other dangerous people from trying to access your computer, and then run an antivirus and malware scan on your computer (doing both are the most ideal). This is to ensure that the malicious software is removed.

Threat 4: Phishing Scams on Social Media

Even in 2018, we’ve seen phishing scams appear, specifically on social media. A post gets shared to win plane tickets or a concert for example, and you can claim your tickets by clicking on the post. Do not believe this type of post though! Look more closely. Do you see how poorly spelled the post is? Many people will share the post without thinking twice, but this is dangerous because it passes along both the scam and the threat of infecting computers with malicious software.

Like with pop-ups, check the spelling and re-examine the name of the company claiming to promote this contest; if the rules of pop-up advertisements apply (poor spelling and a too-good-to-be-true message), notify the people who posted the phishing scam in the first place, and then report the post to Facebook or whichever social media platform you are using.

Cyber threats to your business are scary, but with some common sense and a look-before-you-leap approach, you can avoid them altogether. Like we said before, the best way to ensure a cyber threat doesn’t come close to your most important assets is to have a secure hosting and site maintenance plan in place. If you feel like your hosting and e-mail could use a boost in security, give us a call at V3 Media. If you want to learn more about how to protect yourself from these threats, feel free to consult with us one on one or even follow us on social media. We do our best to stay up to date on the latest cybercriminal activity, ensuring you and other business owners stay safe!