Taking a breif break from the end of year submissions and exams, following the recent cyber attack globally, after helping to pick up the pieces in the NHS, I thought I’d share some interesting tips on how to keep your equipment safe from attacks. As we grow ever reliant on technology to escape the realities of the world or bring new possiblities it, sadly the forces of balance strike and crime will continue to grow across cyberspace. The Friday attack saw unprecedented damage both to those whom it took by surprise and for those that saw it coming. So to help you try to stay safe in the war on the Internet dark lords, here’s six different things you can do to defend yourself from digital attacks.
Don’t Delay Program and OS Updates (too much)
Yeah, I know we all hate them, especially when you see the same app appear in the list 6 days later with yet again with “Bug Fixes” as the main change. Yet despite being frustrating for your phone space, data usage and time there will be that one time your app mucks up or there’s a security issue that could well have been fixed with a recent patch. This doesn’t just apply to individual programs but to your operating systems too (heaven forbid if you didn’t update that!).
If you have to delay them for a bit (if you still have that option), don’t leave it too long, maybe you need to clear some space on your device, maybe you need to get on WiFi – all fine, just make sure you do it at least once a month.
Get and Keep Up to date Security Software
Whilst Windows seems to have a giant target on it’s back, it’s not the only operating system that’s open to attack. So it’s worth making sure you’ve got hardware/firmware and software that helps defend against the various forms of malicious software and people out there (Viruses, Trojan Horses, Spyware, Rootkits, Malware, Worms, Ransomware, DDoS, Unauthorised Entry, etc.)
There’s many different brands out there that suit different needs including compaines such as (but definitely not limited to), Symantec, Spybot, avast!, Kaspersky, Adaware AVG and Sophos that are great for multi-purpose internet security available on desktops, laptops and portable devices, some of which offer protection for free. So if you’re a little short on cash, get yourself some free protection to save you having to spend your next student loan payment on a new laptop or device.
The Great (Fire)wall
On top of your software that searches, blocks out and quarantines dodgy files, it helps to have a network equivalent of a bouncer checking all the traffic. When these are first installed it’s really tempting to turn it off since it will naturally block out everything from Xbox Live to Netflix, because it’s probably not configured to let through what you want it to.
So instead of turning it off everytime you want to stream or go to multiplayer, take some time to tweak it to let through just what you want. If you’re not sure, check out their respective forums that often have an active and helpful community, or check out the product you want to configure to ensure you have all the right settings.
Look for the Signs on Websites
Are you really getting a great deal online? Websites can also open a portal to hackers and money grabbers, tricking you into entering in your personal information for the promise of grandeur when really it’s just a box of confetti.
Therefore it’s always worth verifying the security is legit before your step forward. There’s a few different clues that will allow you to do this including a padlock icon in the address bar, or a warning prompt popping up to tell you an ‘SSL Certificate’ doesn’t completely check out. Occasionally as well depending on the company that did the verifying, there may be badges on the page verifying if the page has hacking proectection or verification links to security companies to reassure you the site you’re buying from takes their security with your card details seriously. If you’d like to know more about checking out these features and emblems, take a look at this article from Get Safe Online.
What’s this file?
A popular and old school trick to distributing dodgy software is either through email attractions or through unusually free downloads and torrent files. Nothing of course is free these days and occasionally those things that really do look free may come bundled with other stuff that people can easily be susceptible to opening, just the same way as that curious little attachment that looks so innocent from their nigerian prince benefactor or hot sexy girl from a far away land that’s interested in you.
If in doubt, download it to somewhere secure and quarantined on your hard drive, don’t open it and scan it with your chosen antivirus software.
It’s easy to get something travelling through your network when you blindly open files, so think carefully when you see something unusual and don’t trust everything that you claim from the internet.
Can’t be bothered? Invest in more Secure
Whilst every operating system has it’s flaws, Windows is still a market leader and with it comes the higher risk that if a vulnerability is found, the more chance you could be affected by an exploit if it’s not patched quickly.
If you really can’t be doing with keeping the line of defense up to date, then why not invest in one of the ‘cleaner’ systems such as an Apple Mac or reformat your desktop/laptop into a Linux based machine. These systems come across as more secure with hackers and virus writers focusing more on the larger fanbase of Windows. Just to be safe, be sure to download the internet security software mentioned above and make sure to download the right one for your operating syste, (EXEs don’t alwyas work through the Wine compatibility layer.
If you follow these basic tips, you should be fairly safe when going online. Whilst it’s not perfect this approach has served me well over time and I hope it helps you all too.
If you feel I’ve mised any off or want to raise a point, please feel free to leave a comment in the box below and start the conversation.