Tips & Advice

Large-scale cyberattack? Protect yourself with this quick and easy guide

Gonzalo Torres, 18 April 2018

Follow these simple tips and precautions to help keep your devices — and yourself — safe in the event of a Big One.

So you’ve heard there could be a big cyberattack coming…

Perhaps you’ve turned on the news and caught wind of warnings about, umh, some countries allegedly trying to mess with other countries’ cyber networks and infrastructure — even private homes. And now you’re worried. What does this mean? Will my devices stop working? Is my internet safe? What do I do?

Step 1. Breathe — you’re definitely not powerless

Now you may feel that fending off a massive cyberattack by a hostile world power is a tad above your pay grade. In reality, it’s the little things that can make all the difference.

There isn’t one single app or feature that can guarantee you won’t be even slightly inconvenienced by a state-sponsored, large-scale cyberattack — part of what makes these threats so scary for people is that it’s hard to predict exactly how they are going to play out. So your best bet is to plug as many holes, and cover as many angles, as possible. Preferably before anything happens.

You’ll be surprised how far a little prevention will take you — and nothing makes us happier than empowering you.

Start by updating your operating system

Step 2. Get or update your antivirus — this is your first line of defense

A good antivirus can (and should) do more than just block malware from getting into your computer. If you want your antivirus to hold up against a massive attack, there are a couple of essential features you should be on the lookout for.

  • Router security. Hacking into routers — including the one you have at home — gives an attacker potential access to the devices connected to it, the data that goes through it, and the ability to direct traffic to malicious places. Our Wi-Fi Inspector feature, included in our free antivirus, scans your home network and router for vulnerabilities. If you are using a different antivirus, don’t settle for less — if it won’t cover your router and home network too, it's time to switch.
  • Behavior analysis. State-sponsored cyberattacks often use sophisticated malware that can stay hidden in your computer for a long time, until it suddenly activates and starts causing mayhem. Make sure your antivirus also keeps an eye out for anything that suddenly starts acting weird in your PC and stops it in its tracks. All our antivirus products (including our free antivirus) now come with Behavior Shield, which does this automatically.

Step 3. Boost your router and network security with this quick checklist

While we’re on the subject of routers, these precautions can stop attackers from sucking you into taking part in an involuntary DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack — which is when attackers use your computer (together with often thousands of others) to launch simultaneous attacks on their intended target, such as a company, agency, power grid, etc. by bombarding it with more traffic than it can handle, and therefore shutting it down.

  • Open your router settings page and do this:
    • Ensure that the SSID (or Wireless Network Name) has a unique name (not the default one that comes with it!).
    • Change the default admin username and password for your router.
    • Turn on WPA2 encryption.
    • Upgrade your router firmware.
    • Disable any remote access services.
  • Make sure you trust all the devices that you connect to your network.
  • If you have installed Avast Antivirus, run Wi-Fi Inspector regularly.

Step 4. Make sure your friends and relatives are protected — it’s free

It really doesn’t cost a thing to make sure everyone you love has essential protection up and running — and in the event of a national-scale cyberattack, you really should do this right about yesterday.

We’ve made it easier than ever to share Avast Free Antivirus with anyone you’d like.

  • You can either send them our recommendation page...
  • Or, if you are an Avast user, you can open your Avast and click on the star icon — you’ll find a recommendation link there. Whenever any of your friends or relatives install Avast through this recommendation link, you’ll receive points which you can exchange for rewards. Pretty nifty, eh?

Once again, this is absolutely free — so no excuses, really.

Step 5. Use a VPN to fend off ‘man in the middle’ attacks

A favorite tactic of modern cyber warfare is the ‘man in the middle’ attack — an attacker butts in between you and whatever you’re doing online (browsing, chatting, emailing, banking…), sees everything you type, send, and receive, and captures all your traffic — even modifies it. That’s a great and easy way for attackers to get a hold of compromising and embarrassing info, login details, passwords, credit card numbers, etc.

A VPN (or Virtual Private Network) can go a long way in protecting you from ‘man in the middle’ attacks. The name can sound off-puttingly imposing, but it’s really not — a VPN is simply an app that you install on your computer or smartphone, and when you switch it on, it covers all you do online under a thick blanket of encryption that nobody can read, even if they’re snooping. (It does a few other very useful things too.)

If you’re using public Wi-Fi, or if you’re unknowingly connected to a router that’s been hacked, and you want to help prevent these attacks from potentially wreaking havoc in our life, then you have to, have to, have to browse with a VPN on.

Step 6. Secure your smartphone and tablet too

Surely we don’t need to tell you just how much you rely on your smartphone for — well, everything. Surely any domination-thirsty world power worth its salt will have figured that out too. Your mobile device is not safe from large-scale cyberattack, is what we’re getting at.

We know how to help secure your Android, iPhone and tablets — from anti-malware protection to mobile VPN and a free and safe password manager for all the accounts you use on the go. Have a look.

Step 7. Consider upgrading your protection to include extra layers

As we said earlier, the key to getting through a large-scale cyberattack unscathed is to cover as many angles as possible. Consider installing these extra layers of protection — in case of state-sponsored cyber warfare, it will be money very well spent.

  • A firewall. A firewall is a security feature that gives you full control and visibility of everything (and everyone) that goes in and out of your PC. It can stop hackers from stealing your personal data and login details, and from using your computer to launch attacks on others.
  • DNS hijacking protection. DNS (Domain Name System) hijacking is a kind of attack that redirects you from the page you want to visit, to another one that looks just like it — except it’s been especially designed to steal your login details, banking and credit card info, etc. Our Real Site feature, for example, protects you from this type of attack.
  • Anti-phishing. State-sponsored attacks are very adept at using sophisticated phishing scams — scams in which people are fooled into giving up their passwords and other login details to an attacker pretending to be someone else — and weaponizing the personal or sensitive information they gain access to. Fortunately, we can help with that too. We have the technology.

You can find all of these features in Avast Internet Security. Give it a try.

TRY INTERNET SECURITY

Feeling safer now? Good

As you can see, you’re far from powerless when it comes to protecting yourself from a massive cyberattack. Now you know how you can minimize your chances of getting caught in the middle of one, and help keep your loved ones more secure to boot.