January 24, 2024

How to protect yourself from a cyber attack

How to protect yourself from a cyber attack

The digital world offers conveniences like online shopping and mobile banking, but it also creates vulnerabilities that can lead to devastating consequences for businesses and consumers. Cyber attacks exploit these vulnerabilities in order to steal money, private data, and even legal identities.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported $10.3 billion in losses to cyber crime in 2022, a significant rise from $6.9 billion in 2021. Total consumer losses to cyber crime have increased in each of the past five years, making it more important than ever to understand how to protect yourself from cyber attacks and avoid becoming a victim.

A cyber attack can lead to financial distress, identity theft, and lingering psychological trauma, but there are ways to secure your data and privacy. Keep reading and learn how to protect yourself from a cyber attack.

Understanding different types of cyber attacks

Cyber attacks compromise your security by giving criminals access to your data, your online accounts, or even your devices. Hackers and scammers use several common methods to pull off their ploys, from phishing and social engineering tactics to malware and data breaches. If you can spot a cyber attack in action, however, you may be able to limit the damage.

Phishing and social engineering attacks

Many cybercriminals use phishing schemes and other social engineering tactics to trick their targets into revealing private information, transferring money to scammers’ accounts, or granting access to private networks. They generally disguise themselves as well-known businesses or government agencies and create fake situations that encourage victims to cooperate.

Phishing occurs when a fraudster sends an email or spam text (or smishing attack) posing as a legitimate entity or trustworthy individual and soliciting personal data. Phishing attacks often include links that direct the target to a spoofed website to supposedly take advantage of an offer or address an issue. In reality, the offer or issue doesn’t exist, and any information entered into the website goes directly to the scammer.

Other social engineering tactics include:

  • Pretexting: This is when the cybercriminal creates fake scenarios (or pretexts) to deceive and manipulate a target.
  • Baiting: Cybercriminals use baiting to lure victims into their schemes by piquing victims’ curiosity, often by making false promises.
  • AI voice cloning: Fraudsters use artificial intelligence (AI) to clone people’s voices, which they can then use to solicit personal information or money transfers from their targets' loved ones.
  • Romance scams: Some fraudsters use fake personas and bogus dating profiles to pose as long-distance love interests. Eventually, they ask for money, financial information, or other favors and assets.

By recognizing these tactics from a distance, you can help protect yourself against social engineering attacks.

Malware and ransomware

Many cyber attacks involve malware, or malicious software that infects your devices and gives cybercriminals access to your data. Some involve a specific type of malware called ransomware, which encrypts your files and charges you a ransom (usually cryptocurrency) to have them decrypted. Some malware is spyware, which monitors your activity and transmits data back to the criminal. Spyware may track your keystrokes (known as keystroke logging) and steal usernames, passwords, and other sensitive information.

Malware often comes from suspicious links and malicious file attachments, but you can practice malware prevention by refraining from engaging with these potential traps. Avoiding these dangerous links and attachments helps prevent viruses and malicious code from allowing criminals to access your data and apps.

Network breaches and data theft

When a cybercriminal gains access to a company’s network, they may steal sensitive business information as well as private customer details. This type of data breach can reveal personally identifying information like email addresses, phone numbers, and even Social Security numbers or login credentials. Fraudsters can sell this stolen information on the dark web or use it to steal people’s money, credit, and identities.

Although data breach prevention is always preferable, knowing how to respond to a data breach can allow you to mitigate damage and quickly recover your losses. If your business suffers a data breach, notify the FTC and fix network vulnerabilities immediately. If you personally fall victim to data theft, contact your financial institutions and change the login credentials for all of your online accounts.

Building a strong defense against cyber threats

A strong defense against cyber threats is vital to your digital security. Complex passwords, up-to-date operating systems, and reliable antivirus software can help protect you and your devices from hackers and scammers.

Implementing robust passwords and authentication measures

Login credentials serve as an essential barrier between cybercriminals and your privacy. Use complex passwords that include letters, numbers, and special characters, and use unique login information for each of your online accounts. Consider using a password manager to keep track of sophisticated passwords without having to remember them, and change your login details regularly to revoke access from scammers who may have already broken in.

Add an extra layer of security by enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) whenever possible. This requires a private code in addition to your password when logging into your accounts. Never share your 2FA or MFA codes by call or text message — no legitimate business will ask for them.

Software updates, antivirus protection, and scam blockers

Be sure to install system updates and reputable antivirus software on all of your devices, even if you don’t use each one every day. Update the operating systems on your phone, laptop, tablet, or watch to take advantage of new security features, and use reliable, up-to-date antivirus software to detect threats.

You should also equip your phone with a comprehensive scam blocker to protect yourself from dangerous phone fraud that may facilitate cyber attacks. Robokiller blocks dangerous spam texts and annoying spam calls from making it through to your phone, so scammers can’t target you with their schemes.

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Safe online habits and practices

The internet can be dangerous, but following cybersecurity best practices can help you avoid traps and protect your personal and financial information.

Recognizing and avoiding suspicious links and downloads

Phishing and smishing schemes often involve malicious links and infected file attachments. Keep these tips in mind when you get an email or text with an unexpected link or suspicious attachment.

  • Don’t click links or download attachments from unknown numbers or email addresses.
    • If you weren’t already expecting a message with a link or attachment, don’t click or download without ensuring the message is legitimate and safe.
    • On a computer, you can hover the cursor over a link or hyperlinked text to reveal the true URL.
  • Don’t click suspicious website pop-ups.
    • Some cybercriminals host malicious pop-ups on disreputable websites.
    • If a website pop-up showcases an attractive deal, search for it in a separate window instead of clicking the advertisement.
  • Look out for unofficial email addresses and phone numbers.
    • Search the sender’s email address or phone number online to make sure it’s legitimate.
      • Use Robokiller’s phone number lookup tool to check the number against our database of known scammers.
    • If a text from a 10-digit phone number claims to be from a company that only sends texts via short code, it’s a scam attempt.

Secure internet browsing and online transactions

Being proactive in your defense makes it more difficult for cybercriminals to target you. Follow these internet safety tips and stay off cybercriminals’ radars.

  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi.
    • Public Wi-Fi networks are generally unsecure and easy for cybercriminals to hack, so it’s best to avoid connecting to them.
  • Use a virtual private network (VPN).
    • This encrypts your data and disguises your IP address, hiding details like your location, browsing activity, and identity.
  • Don’t transfer money or give away information.
    • Never give away money or personal information unless you’re certain that you know and trust the person on the receiving end.
  • Use virtual cards when shopping online.
    • Virtual cards add extra protection by using different information from what’s on your physical debit or credit card.
    • Virtual card details may change between merchants or even individual transactions.

What to do if you're targeted in a cyber attack

Whether the target is an everyday consumer or a multibillion-dollar corporation, cyber attacks can yield quick and significant consequences including identity theft and financial fraud. It’s critical to react swiftly if you’re targeted by a cyber attack.

Immediate steps to limit damage

The sooner you take action, the better you can limit the damage done in a cyber attack. Follow these steps as soon as you realize you’ve been targeted:

  • Change your login credentials.
    • Cyber attacks often uncover login credentials, which scammers can use to access victims’ online accounts. Change your usernames, passwords, and PIN codes across all of your online accounts.
  • Contact your financial institutions.
    • Close any financial accounts and debit or credit cards that may have been compromised in the cyber attack. Open brand new accounts and request new cards from your financial institutions.
    • Depending on your bank, credit union, or credit card company, you may be refunded for unauthorized purchases.
  • Call the police.
    • If you’ve lost personal information or you suspect your identity has been stolen, contact local law enforcement immediately. You may need to file a police report to reverse fraudulent charges or investigate an identity theft case.

Reporting the attack and seeking professional help

The timely reporting of a cyber attack can help the victim recover their losses as well as enable any involved institutions and agencies to improve their defenses, resulting in better protection for everyone.

  • Contact the three major credit reporting agencies to place a credit freeze on your file and prevent criminals from opening accounts in your name.
  • Notify the appropriate government agencies.
  • Forward suspicious text messages to SPAM (7726).
  • Immediately alert your direct supervisor if you receive suspicious communications or notice potential signs of a cyber attack at work.
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Staying one step ahead of cybercriminals

Cyber attacks can have disastrous consequences, but there are ways to secure your data and shut down the perpetrators. By knowing how to protect your personal information online and using a trustworthy spam blocker like Robokiller to prevent scam calls and texts, you can stay a step ahead of the cybercriminals who are out to steal your data.

Robokiller helps protect you from cybercriminals by virtually eliminating phone fraud as well as removing your personal information from the web. Our robust algorithm eliminates 99% of dangerous scam calls and texts, and our personal data protection scans help keep your sensitive information private, reducing your risk for financial loss and identity theft.

Bolster your online privacy protection and keep your sensitive information out of scammers’ hands with a personal data protection scan from Robokiller.


What are the most common types of cyber attacks?

Cyber attacks can come in many forms, from social engineering schemes like phishing and smishing messages to malware installations and network breaches. Cybercriminals may hack devices and humans alike, and their goal is typically to steal money, personal information, or sensitive company data.

How can I strengthen my defenses against a cyber attack?

Bolster your online security by keeping your personal information private; knowing how to spot and prevent cyber attacks; using protective software like antivirus programs and scam blockers (like Robokiller); and responding to suspicious activity immediately.

What are some signs that I might be experiencing a cyber attack?

Indicators of a cyber attack can vary and may include suspicious texts and emails, slow computing speeds and altered data, problems logging into your online accounts, and ransom messages that demand cryptocurrency in exchange for the decryption of your files.

What should I do if I suspect a cyber attack?

If the suspected cyber attack occurs at work, notify your direct supervisor immediately. If you’ve been targeted as an individual, refrain from clicking links or opening attachments and stop communicating with the attacker. Change the login credentials for all of your online accounts, notify the FTC and IC3, and call the police if you’ve given away personal or financial information.

How can I ensure my online activities are secure?

Stay secure online by keeping personal data concealed, using a VPN to protect your identity, and recognizing the red flags of a cyber attack. Don’t use the internet to communicate with or send money to people you don’t know and trust. Use antivirus software and a scam blocker like Robokiller to help protect your devices (and information) from cybercriminals.

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