When it comes to security for your home, you understand exactly how it works. You push a button, alarm goes on, criminal enters your property, loud noise goes off and armed services arrive. It’s simple and something every South African understands as easily as boerewors and biltong.

Cybersecurity, on the other hand, is as much a threat to your wellbeing, finances, and personal identity as the guy scaling your fence, but it is far more complex. A web of DDoS, phishing, ransomware, infections, viruses and trojans, just to name a few, cybersecurity is equal parts confusing lingo and terrifying statistics.

In 2018, 480 new threats were discovered every minute. Spam remained the most used method for spreading malware. Phishing accounted for 50% of all fraud attacks in the third quarter of 2018. One quarter of cyberattacks affected the average user. Yes, those are the statistics that you should be both aware and afraid of …

When the risk of a successful cyberattack can be anything from your identity being stolen to your bank accounts cleaned out, it’s time to get to know the security terminology, understand the threats and prepare for the worst.

The following list of technical jargon will help you to translate the news when it screams out the latest cyberthreat and help you to get on the front foot when it comes to protecting your life and data. In the next instalment, we will unpick each threat, reveal the latest threats and examine how to protect against them.


The defences

* Firewall – Unlike its circus counterpart, the technology firewall forms a defensive ring around your technology to protect against attacks. Most antivirus software comes with a firewall solution built in and Microsoft’s operating system comes with Windows Defender pre-installed – use it.

* Antivirus – There are several different antivirus solutions on the market that are tailored for the home user who wants robust protection without the price tag. You can use anything from Avast to Norton Security to put some serious protections in place. Norton has a free option that allows you to try before you buy, which is handy.

* You – Once you’ve finished reading this security series, you’ll know exactly what to look for, the warning signs, the solutions and the things you should never do. You are your computer’s best, first line of defence.


The attackers

* Malware – This is a blanket term used to define all forms of software that are malicious and that are designed to attack a computer. They follow a specific coded instruction and come in a variety of forms that include viruses, trojans, ransomware and worms.

* Ransomware – This is one of the trickiest and nastiest forms of malware around at the moment and people often fall prey to it thanks to cleverly worded emails that have you panicking and downloading dodgy content. Once you’ve clicked on a link and the malware has entered your system, it locks down your files and data and the only way you can get them back is to pay a ransom. Read this handy guide from Norton that offers helpful tips to prevent a ransomware infection.

* Virus – The computer virus takes its name from the flu virus because it behaves in pretty much the same way. It hurtles through the system, infects it, replicates itself, and then executes a code that forces your computer to behave in a certain way. Viruses are disruptive, damaging and difficult to remove. You can find a handy list of different viruses and their affects right here. Check and see if you have a virus using this free solution right here.

* Trojan – Named after the horse that changed the face of a famous battle, the trojan virus enters into your system under the guise of a legitimate software programme. It pretends to be something that it is not and then works from within to provide the cybercriminal with information that they can use to enter your bank accounts and more. You can find a complete list of different types of trojan and their effect on your system right here.

* Worm – These critters replicate themselves over and over again, infiltrating your system until they are everywhere. They want to not only cover your system, but they are designed to infect other systems connected to yours at the same time. You can’t see their affects as they sit in the background but if your system slows or staggers, is using excessive resources or won’t do certain tasks then it is time to check and see if you have a worm.

* Bot or a Botnet – A botnet is a collection of devices all controlled by a common malware. If you’re infected with a botnet, then you are likely now part of a collective of devices that are being controlled by a cybercriminal. They are now using this interconnected network of computers to do their bidding and this is often illegal – cryptomining, hacking, DDoS attacks and more. A botnet can infect your machine through a virus or a trojan.

* Phishing – This is a clever, clever tool that will really annoy you if you’re caught by it. Phishing attacks using smartly worded emails to lure you into providing them with sensitive information. You believe that the link is from a trusted source, you use it to log into an account and then you realise that the account is fake and so is the link, usually when it’s too late.

* Spam – The thousands of emails that flood your system with tantalising information, prizes and phishing-style messages are one of the most common tools used by cybercriminals to gain access to your system. They are also used to spam other systems – how often have you received a clearly fake email from a friend’s account?

* Spyware – Nasty stuff, spyware. It sits on your system without your consent and it monitors your activity. It is very dangerous as it can be used to glean important details about your credit cards, passwords, and log-in details. It can also be used to spread other malicious malware through your system.

* Keylogger – If you have accidentally installed a keylogger on your system, then the cybercriminal can track exactly what you are typing using the software. The keylogger does just what the name suggests – it captures and logs your keystrokes and then transmits the information to another machine. This is one of the creepiest threats, really, as the person controlling the keylogger can simply help themselves to all your personal data whenever they feel like it.

* Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) – This is an incredibly frustrating attack as it basically makes your system unusable. A DDoS attack tends to hit your machine with thousands of requests at once – it overwhelms the system so much that it can’t respond to normal requests. These attacks are simple but incredibly effective, especially for business users. Imagine being unable to perform even the most basic of functions because your machine is doing someone else’s bidding? These attacks more commonly target business and government but it helps to be aware …

* Adware – These tedious and annoying adverts are downloaded with certain software programmes and can pop up on your machine when you’re working or trying to get things done. They aren’t really more than that as a rule, but often they can include spyware which isn’t harmless at all.