Technology

Could You Be a Prime Target For Hackers? Here’s a Look at The Risk Factors

Ever since the dawn of the internet, hackers have been a constant presence in the virtual realm. Over time, with the evolution of the digital landscape and more users entering this space, hackers have sharpened their skills and perfected their methods. Their attacks have gotten increasingly more sophisticated and unfortunately much more common than they were back in the day.

The emergence of services like https://www.databreachcompensationexpert.co.uk/ brings a glimmer of hope to victims but also proves that cybercrime rates are on the rise. Statistics reveal that cyberattacks increased by 38% in 2022 compared to the previous year and 82% of all data breaches registered by organisations were down, at least in part, to a human error.

That means everyone is at risk of falling victim to a hacking attack, be it companies, organisations, or mere internet users. The prevalence of cyberattacks alone should be enough for you to consider the possibility of becoming a potential target. However, there are certain characteristics and behaviours that make one a much more attractive target to hackers and therefore increase the odds of becoming a victim.  

While it’s unlikely we’ll ever be able to completely eradicate the phenomenon, there are ways to minimise and eliminate some of the risks and thus reduce the incidence of cyberattacks. And that starts by being aware of our vulnerabilities and making a conscious effort to address them. So, if you don’t want to be a sitting duck, you better educate yourself on the topic and learn how to protect yourself against cybercriminals.

Getting inside a hacker’s mind

If we accept that we’re all in a constant battle with the dark forces on the internet, the smartest thing to do if you want to gain an advantage over your enemy and increase your chances of emerging victorious is to get to know them. In other less metaphorical words, you need to find out how these malicious actors operate and what constitutes a good target for them. 

Financial gain

Although it’s a lot easier for hackers to put their vile plans into action these days and take advantage of security flaws to get what they want, they won’t go after any random individual or entity that has an online presence and risk losing their time. They’ll only put in the effort if they know that the target has something of value to offer. A study conducted by Verizon found that as much as 86% of all the data breaches included in the analysis were driven by financial gain. So, money seems to be the top motivator in cyberattacks.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the victim has to be rich. Hackers will target any person or organisation that provides the opportunity to earn money. Value and therefore money can come from many things, but these days it primarily comes from data. That’s why companies that have large databases containing sensitive information from a large number of customers are often prime targets for cybercriminals. Hackers can profit from the stolen data by selling it to other criminals on the dark web or demanding a large ransom from the victims for restoring access to it.

Vulnerabilities

Another aspect that makes internet users attractive targets to hackers is a high level of vulnerability. The more exposed you are, the easier and more tempting it is for cybercriminals to seize the opportunity and attack you. Major companies and state institutions hold a lot of valuable data that can bring huge amounts of money to hackers, but they also have strong security systems in place to keep their files and data safe.

Therefore, it’s not easy for cybercriminals, many of which operate alone or are self-taught, to break into their systems and get away with it. That’s why most hackers choose to go after more vulnerable targets like small and medium-sized businesses that have weaker defences and don’t pose much of a challenge.

However, it’s not just companies and organisations that are in the line of fire. Individuals can also become prime targets for being the most vulnerable, and often the most reckless, of internet users. Lack of proper cyber hygiene can lead to all sorts of security incidents and gives hackers the perfect opportunity to get hold of a person’s data. Some of the actions that increase the risk of cyberattacks for individuals include:

  • Lack of adequate security measures like antivirus software or firewalls
  • Using weak passwords
  • Using the same password across all online accounts
  • Ignoring two-factor authentication
  • Ignoring software updates and upgrades
  • Not backing-up data
  • Sharing too much information online
  • Falling for fake emails or messages
  • Clicking on every link without thinking twice

Potential for disruption

It’s not always about money or how vulnerable a victim is. Some hackers choose their targets based on a different criterion: the potential to cause disruption. These cybercriminals are less motivated by the prospect of substantial financial gains and more driven by the desire to cause damage and make a statement through their actions. 

When the sole intention is to create havoc, hackers will usually target high-profile companies that are known worldwide or businesses whose operations impact the lives of many stakeholders. By choosing a company that has ties with other businesses and organisations or has a large user base, hackers can ensure that their attack will gain ample coverage in the media and the whole world will know about it. This might sound like a very superficial incentive, but the large number of companies that have been hacked over the years just for the sake of causing disruption proves that cybercriminals have a penchant for these types of targets.

Wrapping up

No one is completely safe from cyberattacks but that doesn’t mean you should leave it all to chance and hope that you’ll somehow escape the threat of online hacking. The best thing to do in order to stay safe is to assess your vulnerabilities and do everything in your power to reduce them.

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