In this series of blogs we are going to discuss methods, practices and equipment required to look after your data so that you firstly do not lose valuable data, and secondly, stop other people from accessing your data. Today’s topic is about online security and protecting your files and information from online attackers.
Protection of data against Automated Hackers and Phishing Programs
Identity theft and credit card theft may not be as traumatic as having your physical devices stolen from you, but the effects and stress of resolving all the issues can be just as bad. So here are few pointers as to steps to take to reduce the likelihood of you being a victim of online identity theft, and reduce the likelihood of anyone accessing your files.
Most forms of hacking and illicit information gathering are now done using automated programs and having them distributed to thousands and thousands of people using websites and emails with the hope that some people and their systems are exposed to these forms of attacks. You may yourself have received emails that appear to be from your bank, online stores, and social media sites asking for private information. Or you could receive emails from your own friends linking you to bad websites. This is extremely common, and the distribution itself there’s little you can do about.
Once the programs they have set up have tricked someone into providing personal information, usernames, passwords and credit card information then they will begin work with either simply purchasing items with your credit card or full on identity fraud.
So how to protect you and your system
- Make sure your Anti-virus software is enabled and activated. Antivirus software will block programs such as Trojans, worms and other malware from getting on your computer. These can affect your system in many different ways, including giving direct access to your data or installing key loggers which monitor all your keyboard inputs to get hold of your passwords and usernames. Recommendations to virus software will be discussed below.
- Make sure your Firewall software is activated and updated. If you do not have one make sure the Windows built in firewall is enabled. Recommendations to firewall software will be discussed below.
- DO NOT click on links in emails. Even if from a friend, bank or social media site. Many of these are fake “phishing” emails trying to trick you into giving them your passwords. Try and go to the website directly using a browser, or at the very least move the mouse icon over the link and the status bar at the bottom over the browser should give you the exact location the link is sending you to. If it looks suspicious, avoid clicking. In fact just avoid clicking it and type in the website manually. And do definitely do not provide anyone, no matter how legitimate a message looks, with your username and password for any account. No legitimate company will ask for these details in an email.
For more help have a look at our 10 Step Guide to Protect Against Viruses which has a few general pointers to help in this area.
Protecting against Direct Hacking attacks
There’s not much additional advice we can help with regards protecting from direct attacks to your computer in your home or place of work. If they target your computer or network directly, there’s not much you can do additionally, short of hiring a computer security company, or just disconnecting your computer from the internet. The steps described above in protecting your computer from automated hackers also help here, what you can do is in addition is encrypt folders (described in Data Protection Series Part 1) and files that you wish to restrict access to. File encryption is extremely hard to break and provides another obstacle to any hacker.
However this situation is very rare and unlikely unless you were a large corporation in which case it is the responsibility of the company I.T. security team to protect your computer. However if you do feel that you are a target in your work or home, then you would need to consult a computer security company to install and look after additional firewalls to protect your systems.
In Part 3 we will be looking at software and services that will help you maintain security.