A quick guide to network security threats (for small businesses)

by Vinaya Sheshadri

Cyber vigilance is key to deterring the network security threats businesses face. But improving the know-how of internal teams is an often-neglected issue.

After all, your teams are your first line of cyber defence. Without threat awareness on their part, your networks are vulnerable to malicious software. That compromises your operations and exposes business-critical data.

Preventing that requires constant education. As a starting point, we’ve compiled a list of every network security threat your teams need to know about.

What is network security?

Network security is the process of protecting your internal networks from external threats. A multiplicity of strategies and solutions can help you achieve this.


• Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
• Web Application Firewalls (WAF)
• Next-gen Firewalls (NGFW)
• Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS)
• Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)

What are the main network security threats?

There are ten key network security threats your teams should be aware of. These are:

1. Computer viruses
2. Rogue security software
3. Adware & spyware
4. Computer worms
5. Trojan Horses
6. Denial-of-service & distributed denial-of-service
7. Phishing
8. SQL injections
9. Rootkits
10. Man in the middle attacks

Quick definitions: Network security threats

What is a computer virus?

A computer virus is malicious software loaded onto a device without the owner’s consent. Viruses are capable of spreading from one computer to another through illegitimate websites and email attachments. Their purpose is to use your network systems to steal and corrupt sensitive data.

What is rogue security software?

Rogue security software tricks users into thinking they have a computer virus. They are then prompted to download malicious software to solve it. These installations often involve a cash payment from the victim to the perpetrator.

What is adware and spyware?

Adware is a form of malware that displays adverts to users based on their online behaviour. While some forms of adware are legitimate, they slow the running speeds of a computer. Spyware is installed without the user’s knowledge. It then gathers data about them and sends it to malicious actors.

What is a computer worm?

Computer worms are a form of malware that spread from computer to computer. This occurs through duplication when the worm sends itself to a computer’s contacts. Then, it sends itself to the contacts of those machines. None of this requires human input.

What is a Trojan Horse?

A Trojan Horse is a non-replicating form of malware. Trojans disguise themselves as legitimate programmes on a computer. They are much harder to spot than other network security threats because of this. Once on a computer, a Trojan can steal passwords and other sensitive data.

What are denial-of-service and distributed denial-of-service attacks?

DoS attacks prevent users from accessing their computer systems. They are performed by a single machine. DDoS attacks attempt to overwhelm a server more forcefully, flooding from several computers. Once a network of machines is infected, hackers can access and control a botnet, using it for malicious purposes.

What is phishing?

Phishing is a technique designed to access the personal and financial data of users. Phishing often comes in the form of texts or emails from hackers posing as trusted sender. Opening links within these messages exposes the user to unwanted malware.

What are rootkits?

A rootkit is a form of malware attack that gives a hacker remote control over a computer. Rootkit attacks install collections of software tools to achieve this. Once remote control is established, hackers can access sensitive data including passwords.

What is an SQL injection?

SQL injections are code injection techniques that target data-driven apps. They are often found in web forms and provide hackers access to database contents. SQL injections also have the power destroy sensitive data.

What are man-in-the-middle attacks?

Man-in-the-middle attacks involve hackers positioning themselves between a user and a trusted source. As the user believes they are communicating with the trusted source, they reveal sensitive information. This can easily compromise personal, financial and network security.

What simple steps can you take to improve your network security?

1. Use encryption – Encryption scrambles text to improve data confidentiality.

2. Harden your operating systems – Systems hardening makes attack surfaces smaller and gets rid of attack vectors.

3. Define security policies – Formal documentation will ensure your cybersecurity stance is crystal clear.

4. Set up disaster recovery – Resources relying on a network will resume function after interruption.

5. Back up frequently – Secure back up environments help mitigate network security attacks.

How can RiverSafe help improve your network security?

RiverSafe’s is committed to providing in-depth team training and consultancy. This ensures that your internal teams are aware of every network security threat. Meanwhile, our cybersecurity solutions offer you total visibility on your cyber infrastructure. They also proactively alert you to weaknesses and threats.

Get in touch to arrange a free consultation today.

By Vinaya Sheshadri