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How Cybercrimes Work and How to Stay Safe

Posted at 11:28 AM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 11:28:16-05

LANSING, Mich. — Cybercrime is on the rise all around the world. As if that’s not a big problem, attackers have become smarter and more indiscriminate, targeting anyone and everyone with vulnerable security systems. Businesses and organizations that handle sensitive data are at the most risk. But that’s not to say average computer users are safe.

Whether you use an iMac, Windows, iOS or android device, there’s a chance you have data someone out there would want to steal. Think of your credit card information, private text messages, intimate photos and office projects. Malicious people could steal them for selfish reasons.


That said, below are popular ways cyberattacks occur and how to avoid them.

#1: Phishing

Phishing attacks involve counterfeit messages that seem to appear from genuine sources. Many of the messages feature a link or file which if you click or download installs viruses into your computer or phone. After that, an attacker could spy on you or hijack your computer in exchange for a ransom.

Phishing is one of the most dangerous types of cyberattacks out there. It’s easy to fall for and can have devastating effects. Let’s say you get an email from someone claiming to represent your credit card company. They say you need to update your information or you could lose your money. Then they offer help if you reveal your sensitive data. In the process, you end up giving out your credit card data to an attacker.

There are several ways to avoid phishing scams. The best solution is to countercheck the names, emails and websites where you find suspicious messages. Many of them are counterfeits and the websites are usually new and ridden with poor grammatical errors.

That said, also use follow basic Internet security tips. Don’t click on links or install files from unknown persons. Even if someone claims to be your high school friend, ignore or delete their email if it comes with a suspicious link.

#2: Eavesdropping Attacks

Also called Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks, eavesdropping as a way of spying is as old as human communication goes. On the Internet, though, attackers eavesdropping by intercepting your Internet traffic while using virtual phones or public Wi-Fi.

To expound more, public WiFi and some virtual phone systems broadcast your traffic openly. Think of public address systems—that’s how they work. Anyone can listen to your messages, even private messages. Worse, cyber frauds could also install malware to your computer to do more harm.

Like phishing scams, MitM attacks can be avoided. The most ideal option is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs hide your computer’s IP address and give you a new temporary IP address located in a secure server. They also encrypt your data and tunnel it using hack-proof techniques. In doing so, a good VPN can protect you from all attempts of cyber eavesdropping.

To be clear, VPNs differ in their efficiency. Some are free but provide little assistance. Choose a top-rated, reliable VPN for the best protection. Not only do you get protection against eaves droppers, but you also get protected from phishing and most other forms of cybercrime.


#3: Malware

Malware is the general term for malicious software, so apps, files or programs designed to wreak havoc to your computer and mobile devices all qualify as malware. They include worms, spyware, viruses, Trojans, scareware and adware.

Most attackers infiltrate people’s computers through one form of malware. How they do it differs in every case. Some fraudsters attach spyware and viruses on freeware. When install a free song, movie or program, you also install a virus.

The damage done by malware depends on its types. Viruses, for example, replicate to damage nearly every document in your computer. On the flip side, spyware can stay undetected to do its job of stealing your personal information.

The best line of defense from malware is an antimalware program. Both Windows and Mac computers have default antimalware software—Windows Defender and Xprotect. However, third-party programs provide more comprehensive solutions even though they might cost a monthly fee.

#4: SQL Injection

Unlike many attacks, SQL injections target servers and not computers or cell phones. The objective is to inject a malicious code that directs a server to reveal data it otherwise keeps safe. Many SQL attacks target businesses that use SQL databases: MySQL, SQL Server and Oracle, to name a few.

When a fraudster injects a webpage on your website or a server with a malicious code, he or she can steal your customers’ data, erase or edit it as per their wish. Because of the potential harm an SQL attack could do to your business, it’s essential to install a web firewall that filters out SQL injections.

For the best results, choose a firewall that verifies every IP address before allowing or blocking it from accessing your website. This helps reduce false positives.

#5: DNS Tunneling

This is another common attack you can avoid by using simple Internet safety measures. DNS tunneling targets websites that use HTTP instead of the recommended HTTPS data encryption method. In other words, HTTPs is safe and HTTP is not.

Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and more browsers warn you against visiting HTTP websites. But if you ignore this message, you risk becoming the victim of a cybercrime. The result could be getting compromised data sent to you by an attacker and not the site you’re visiting.

To protect yourself from DNS tunneling attacks, avoid HTTP websites as much as possible. If a site can’t encrypt user data, it’s probably not worth it. On the other hand, install a VPN. Virtual Private Networks encrypt your data through military-grade systems, giving you the utmost protection from DNS leaking.


There you have it—the five most common ways cyber criminals attack unsuspecting people. They can disguise themselves as friends or install malware on free apps and programs. Alternatively, they could attack your server or intercept your data while using public WiFi. Use some of the tips shared above to stay safe.

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