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  With increasing emphasis on using digital tools and solutions for work, Cyber attacks are becoming increasingly common, especially for individuals and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Individuals and SMEs often do not have the financial resources to implement the necessary cybersecurity apparatus compared to big businesses with a whole department and budget created for cybersecurity. A cyber attack is an attempt by hackers to damage, disrupt, or gain unauthorized access to computer systems, networks, or data. Hackers are daily looking for avenues to exploit any possible vulnerability through various forms, such as phishing, ransomware, malware, and denial-of-service attacks.
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Cyber attacks can cripple operations, steal sensitive information, and cause financial loss. Understanding the signs of a potential cyber attack is crucial to protect yourself or your business from severe damage and can respond promptly to mitigate the impact. In this post, we will consider twelve signs that could show you may be under a cyber attack and what you can do in each situation.

What is a Cyber Attack?

A cyber attack is a deliberate exploitation of computer systems, technology-dependent enterprises, and networks. These attacks use malicious code to alter computer code, logic, or data, leading to disruptive consequences that can compromise data and lead to cybercrimes such as information and identity theft. Cyber attacks can take many forms, including:
  1. Phishing:
Fraudulent attempts to obtain sensitive information by pretending to be a trustworthy entity. This usually comes through emails.
  1. Ransomware:
Malicious software designed to encrypt a victim’s data with a threat to publish the data or block access to it unless a ransom is paid.
  1. Malware:
Software designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to computer systems. Examples include viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and spyware.
  1. Denial-of-Service (DoS):
An interruption of an authorized user’s access to any system, typically one caused by overwhelming the target system with a flood of internet traffic.
  1. Spyware:
Software that enables a user to obtain covert information about another’s computer activities. Recognizing these attacks early can mitigate potential damage. Here are twelve signs you might be under a cyber attack:

1. Unusual Network Activity

If you notice a significant slowdown in your network or unusually high traffic levels, it could be a sign of a cyber attack, such as a DoS attack. Monitor your network’s activity and use network security tools to identify and address unusual traffic patterns.

2. Unexpected Software Installations

New software appearing on your system without your knowledge is a red flag. This could indicate that malware has been installed. Regularly check your installed programs and use antivirus software to scan and remove any suspicious applications.

3. Frequent System Crashes

If your computers or servers are crashing more often than usual, it could be due to malicious software interfering with your system. Keep your operating systems and software updated, and use reliable antivirus programs to detect and eliminate threats.

4. Pop-Ups and Unwanted Ads

Frequent, unexpected pop-ups can indicate a malware infection. These pop-ups might lure you into clicking malicious links or downloading further malware. Never click on suspicious pop-ups; instead, use reliable anti-malware software to scan and clean your system.

5. Unauthorized Transactions

If you notice any unauthorized transactions or changes in your financial accounts, it could be a sign of a cyber attack targeting your financial information. Immediately contact your bank to report the suspicious activity and maybe block the account from further transactions.

6. Password Problems

Receiving alerts about multiple failed login attempts or being locked out of your accounts can indicate that hackers are trying to gain access. Implement strong password policies, enable two-factor authentication (2FA), and regularly update your passwords.
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7. Strange Emails Sent from Your Account

If your contacts receive strange emails from your account that you didn’t send, your email might have been compromised. Change your email password immediately, enable 2FA, and inform your contacts not to click on any links from suspicious emails.

8. Unauthorized Access to Sensitive Data

Discovering that sensitive data has been accessed without authorization is a clear sign of a cyber attack. Conduct a security audit, change your security credentials, and tighten access controls to protect your data.

9. Security Software Disabled

If your antivirus or security software is suddenly disabled, it might be due to malware that is trying to remove obstacles to its operation. Reinstall your security software, perform a full system scan, and consider seeking professional IT assistance.

10. Ransom Demands

Receiving a message demanding a ransom to restore access to your data is a tell-tale sign of a ransomware attack. Do not pay the ransom, as it doesn’t guarantee the return of your data. Instead, disconnect from the network, report the incident to relevant authorities, and use backups to restore your data.

11. Strange Browser Behaviour

If you notice that your browser redirects you to unknown websites or new toolbars and extensions appear without your consent, it could be a sign of malware. Reset your browser settings, remove suspicious extensions, and run a full system scan with updated security software.

12. Files Encrypted or Missing

Discovering that your files are encrypted or have disappeared can indicate a ransomware attack. Do not pay the ransom; instead, seek professional help from cybersecurity experts. Regularly back up your data to mitigate the impact of such attacks.

What to Do If You Suspect a Cyber Attack

  1. Stay Calm: Panicking can lead to rash decisions. Stay calm and methodically assess the situation.
  2. Disconnect from the Internet: If you suspect an attack, disconnect your devices from the Internet to prevent further data loss.
  3. Notify Authorities: Report the incident to the appropriate authorities, such as the Nigerian Computer Emergency Response Team (ngCERT).
  4. Use Backups: Restore your systems using recent backups to ensure you recover clean versions of your data.
  5. Update Software and Change Passwords: Ensure all your software and operating systems are up to date with the latest security patches. Also, change all your passwords using a different device that is not affected.
  6. Seek Professional Help: Consult with cybersecurity experts to investigate the breach, identify vulnerabilities, and implement stronger security measures.
  7. Educate Employees: If you’re a business owner, regularly train your staff on cybersecurity best practices to avoid future attacks. Also, put necessary cybersecurity measures in place.

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Concluding Thoughts

Staying vigilant and proactive is key to protecting yourself from cyber attacks. By recognizing the signs early and taking appropriate actions, you can safeguard yourself and your business from significant harm.
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This article was first published on 5th July 2024 and updated on July 7th, 2024 at 8:40 pm


Ifegwu-Mbonu Victor is a Personal Growth and Leadership Trainer who provides training and coaching to individuals and organizations.

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