Have you ever stopped to wonder how important our electronic devices are?
For example, many people use their laptops for work, leisure, shopping and communication with friends, family and business colleagues. They store an entire back catalogue of job applications; photographs, financial and medical data, contacts and, last but not least, passwords for every online account ever visited.
In short, its probably fair to say that most people have their entire life neatly organised onto a silver disc no bigger than a tiny matchbox. Now consider all the damage a malicious hacker could do if they got their hands on your device. They could:
Harvest your address book to target your family & friends with malicious emails whilst masquerading as you.
Apply for loans and credit cards using the personal information they have stolen.
Use your computer to mine cryptocurrency.
Use your computer to host illicit content which can be traced back to you.
Use your computer to attack other online systems.
Sell your product keys or serial numbers for software you have purchased.
Plant ransomware on your machine and demand payment in cryptocurrency which is virtually untraceable.
Seize control of your webcam or trawl through your personal information in order to blackmail you.
Wipe your machine out of sheer spite or plant a malicious virus. . .
And so, the list goes on and on.
Ok. How Do I Protect Myself and The People I Care About?
1) Use Antivirus: Which will detect, block, sanitize and remove malware such as viruses, worms, keyloggers and backdoors. A couple of caveats when using antivirus, include:
Always download software from a reputable vendor - don’t click on advertisements or email links.
Make sure the product regularly updates to combat new threats (although this normally happens automatically).
Always perform a ‘manual’ scan of any new files and folders (just right click on it).
Avoid running two antivirus products at the same time, because they may conflict.
Many antivirus packages come with a firewall. A firewall will block malicious traffic from the Internet hitting your device. These days, most home hubs already come with this technology built into them, although the quality can vary depending on your Internet Service Provider.
2) Update Your Software And Regularly Patch: Newer versions of software and security patches stop attackers exploiting known flaws. It is absolutely critical that you update your device regularly. For many security experts, this is probably the single most important action you can take.
3) Be Careful What You Download: If you need to download files or software, go to reputable sources and check out what others have said about the products you intend to install. If you begin a download and the antivirus starts pinging messages left, right and centre, its probably worth taking some time to reassess the risks.
4) Be Careful Of Links & Attachments: Especially within unsolicited email. Research suggests that most malware is distributed via email as attachments so it pays to be extra vigilant in this respect. Macro files; executables, ISOs and encrypted zipped folders in particular should generate concern.
5) Block Pop-Ups: As some contain malicious code. This can be done in any modern browser via the privacy or security settings. In fact, downloading the latest version of your favourite browser to surf the web is probably a good idea, full stop. Visit here (whatismybrowser.com) to check you have the latest edition.
6) Password Protect Your Device:
Passwords can work well, providing they are A) Not easy to guess and B) Long. For this reason, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) suggests you use 3 random words with numbers and symbols thrown into the mix. Not only will this stop the cybercriminal guessing your password, but it prevents them using software to successfully crack your password. Better yet, if your device allows you to use biometric authentication (or in other words a thumb print or facial recognition) – use that instead. It’s way more secure.
7) Think About Physical Security of Mobile Devices:
Mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and phones are small and portable. As such, they are especially easy to misplace! They also sell for a lot of money so it pays to use them discreetly and never leave them unattended. It is better if you can minimise the amount of sensitive data you store on them, otherwise refer back to point 6.
Wait – I Think My Machine is Infected
If you think your systems has been infected with malware:
Disconnect the computer from the internet.
Reboot the computer in safe mode by pressing F8 as soon as the screen lights up.
Type 'Temporary files' in the search bar and choose 'free up disc space by deleting temporary files'.
Run anti-virus software and delete or quarantine infected files.
Run the scan again.
Reboot normally, connect to the internet and update the machine (type 'update' in the search bar).
Otherwise, consider using a specialist service.
Monitor Accounts: Such as bank accounts for unauthorized use, or unusual activity. Contact the account provider if there are problems. If you ever suspect that your device has been compromised, it’s a good idea to start changing passwords – starting with your email account first. Consider using a credential manager to generate and securely store passwords.
Back Up Data: In the cloud or to an external hard drive. In the event of an infection, critical information will not be lost. Just be sure to back up data, system configurations and anything else of value. Store backups securely and offline if possible.
See something not quite right? Email: