What can you do to keep your data and computer secure?
Todays modern world has not only helped business, it’s also made a lucrative sideline for criminals.
At the top there are hackers worldwide intent on gaining intelligence and information from government, military, banking institutes etc. Then there are the small time crooks who will do whatever they can do gain access to your data, whether for identity fraud, to hold your computer to ransom or even blackmail.
What can we do to best avoid such situations?
Good advice is to have a good strong password on anything you register with online, there are literally thousands of accounts out there with passwords of ‘password’ – Most of which will have been compromised already. Choosing a password be sure to use a mixture of lowercase and uppercase, add in some numbers and perhaps some punctuation. Even better, use a password that is not a ‘word’ or ‘name’. A modern computer can try every possible word in the dictionary in a very short time, as the internet gets faster, this means they can try online passwords also in a very short time.
Use a different password for different accounts
Of course your account is only as secure as the systems you are accessing, most will encrypt your password to a high level, but don’t count on it. The last thing you want is for your hotmail to get hacked, letting the cybercriminal figure out your online banking password! While not always practical, I would at least suggest a much more complex password for any financial systems you use online.
Most accounts you set up will ask for ‘security’ questions, examples of such are ‘mothers maiden name’, ‘pets name’, ‘what school did you attend’. Ask yourself how many people would already know the answers to the questions above? Or perhaps you have pictures of your little puppy ‘fido’ on your farcebook account? Personally I find security questions to be a weak link when it comes to security. If you must use them, add on a secret word or number, punctuation, or a mixture of all three.
Calls from your internet provider or microsoft
Unless you yourself have actually requested a call from your ISP, first thing I would say is ‘beware’. There are a multitude of scams where a caller will try to gain information from you, and it is unlikely to really be your ISP or Microsoft (Microsoft in particular NEVER call you). The information gathered will be used against you or to assist them in identity theft. NEVER give a caller access to your computer for ‘remote control’ unless you fully trust the person you are speaking to.
Using your computer online
Time after time we have people return from holiday only to find that suddenly they lose access to their email. It seems that in 99% of these cases, the email account had been hijacked, stolen by criminals for whatever they want to use it for – password recovery for the bank details? Sending spam emails to all your friends and colleagues?
Either way, the way these criminals are gaining access is by ‘listening’ in on unencrypted data being sent over a network, for example a coffee shop or café with ‘FREE’ internet.
In general, online services are more secure than a traditional telephone call, but if you’re on a free network, chances are you could be getting monitored, and it appears many of these free hotspots are used regularly by petty cyber-criminals.
Wireless Network Security
The same works for your home wifi network, while most these days are encrypted, needing a code for the router, if yours says ‘open’, you’ll want to secure it ASAP.
One word on modern routers, although it’s usefull to have a button that simply allows access without having to physically type in a ‘wireless key’. There is a flaw in the WPA coding which makes WPA probably the EASIEST way to get your wireless network hacked. Again consult a qualified person to assist you in turning off this security loophole.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Many people are jumping on board with VPNs, thinking that they’re an answer to security – In truth the opposite is very likely to be the case.
A VPN, virtual private networks wer eoriginally designed to give remote access to a companies infrastructure, for their employees or in some case users. They route data via a machine in the middle, so when you visit a website, it appears to come from that IP address rather than your own, the same is true for data sent to a remote site (passwords etc), it’s routed via the machine in the middle. The result is a longer trip, slowing down speed (albeit usually unnoticably to the average person), but it also means that that machine ‘in the middle’ can see ALL of your data transferred.
The question is, do you trust whoever is running that VPN? Do you know them or are they a stranger? Ask yourself, would you trust a stranger with everything you send or recieve on the internet?
VPNs are popping up on all platforms, Apple, Windows, Android and Linux. Lets take a look at why we might use one.
- To access your companies internal network – I’m going to assume that your companies internal network has safeguards in place, and since it’s just company data you’ll be using then this is probably the safest use.
- To ‘anonymise’ your location by using a fake IP address. `
- To access sites and data not available in your country, this can include online streaming sites, i.e Netflix, in order to view content only available in certain territories.
- To bypass security on firewalls.
The question to ask yourself is do you *really* need to use a VPN? and if so, be very careful of what you’re using them for, disable it before you enter any credentials for websites or background services.
Be sure to use a decent antivirus, our recomendation would be Malwarebytes.
Be wary of ‘antivirus’ products that don’t specialise in keeping you safe, the ‘jack of all trades’ products, offering ‘password storage’, ‘private network’ etc. A real antivirus will concentrate on what they do best.
I give the above information so as to better educate our clients and users worldwide. Don’t be scared of the internet, there’s some seriously amazing stuff happening in internet world, but do keep ahead and stay safe.
If you have any questions or suggestions, or just require more information, do let us know and we’ll not only assist you, but we’ll update this page with even more security information.