It does not seem unusual to read in the media about a huge company whose computer systems have been hacked, sometimes compromising the personal details of hundreds of thousands of users. Most businesses take the security of their systems very seriously and do all they can to prevent breaches from happening. Cyber-criminals are often out to cause chaos, which is what they achieve every time they manage to hack into someone’s computer, as well as there being the possibility of theft from bank accounts and stealing other people identity.
Even as an individual or small business, you are still vulnerable to being hacked, and all you can do is take every step possible to ensure that your computer or digital device is secure.
If a hacker gets into your system, everything can be lost. You could have bank accounts emptied, photos destroyed and all of the hard work you have ever done could disappear if you work on your computer. Just imagine if you were studying for an online masters in finance and all your coursework was suddenly gone. Earning degrees online has become very popular because of the flexibility and cost of them compared to traditional ways of studying. If you have chosen this path or are a freelancer that works remotely, you need to be sure that you can safely keep each piece of work.
Cyber-criminals have been a problem for several years, and at a meeting back in 2016 between cybersecurity experts and representatives from the Department of Justice, the matter was discussed in some detail. One thing that is being tried by many of the large companies is employing a ‘good hacker’ who can hack into their systems and plug any holes they find.
Steps to Lessen the Risk
There are some very basic steps you can take to lessen the risk. If you are an employer, you should make sure all your staff stick to these rules:
- Change your passwords often and do not use the same one for all applications.
- Make your passwords hard to decipher, avoiding dates of birth and anniversaries.
- Do not open emails that are not from a trusted source.
- Don’t click on links you do not know, as these are a favorite way to get into your computer.
- Always update your software as the updates often have new security measures in them.
- Install antivirus and anti-spyware software, and keep it updated.
These steps will all help to protect everything on your computer, but there are also products on the market that will detect threats at the DNS, HTTP and HTTPS layers, which can prevent the compromising of your computer. They can even spot threats that most antivirus programs cannot see.
Is Your Data Secure in the Cloud?
Cloud storage lets you store your data with a third-party data center through a cloud provider. More people, individuals, and businesses are using the cloud, as if your computer crashes, you do not lose anything. The cloud can be accessed from any device as long as you have the necessary login details and password.
Some people are concerned that their information is being stored on servers and systems that they have no control over, and some worry about how secure their data will be.
With cloud storage providers and enterprises sharing the responsibility for cloud security, it is harder for hackers to get into. The security is very good, but it is not infallible. It is more difficult for the cyber-criminals because of authentication, access control, and encryption, but if they can guess the security questions or bypass a password, they may well be able to access files in the cloud.
You should also consider that governments can legally request information stored in the cloud, and every year, tens of thousands of such requests are made by government agencies. It is up to the provider to either give or deny the request, and it is not unusual for the likes of Google and Microsoft to hand over some information even if it is not the files in full. The view of the governments tends to be that, if you have nothing to hide, this should not be a problem.
Generally, with the deterrent controls cloud providers use, the preventative controls, detective controls, and corrective controls, your data is safer stored in the cloud than on your own device.
Just imagine how you would feel if you turned on your computer and were faced with a message telling you that all your information is locked unless you hand over a sum of money. Ransomware has become far more common since the introduction of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, as the recipient of the money is not so easily traced through blockchain. When small businesses are targeted, they often pay up, as the amounts are usually not huge. The hackers can make a fortune in this way, as they contact many people in just one day with the same threats.
You really have two choices. You either pay them, or wipe your computer clean. An empty computer might not be as horrendous as it sounds if you back up everything on it on a regular basis. Back it up to an external hard drive designed for this purpose, and all your programs and data can be re-entered. This way, all you have lost is some time. You should then immediately change all of your passwords and make sure all of your software is updated to prevent being greeted with the same message the next day.
You can Never be 100% Safe
It is worth remembering that no system is 100% secure and that every time a new antivirus, firewall or spyware is introduced, cyber-criminals make it their business to try and find a way of hacking into it. The same goes for operating system updates.
All you can do is take every step possible to make your device safe and hope that you are not the victim of a cyber-criminal.