Cyber Security: How to Avoid Getting Hacked

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The tactics cyber criminals use and how you can protect your devices against them.

In the information age, you’d be surprised to find out how much personal information is available. Everywhere you go you need to provide information about who you are to gain access to almost anything. With money being handled digitally more frequently, our lives are becoming increasingly present online, so it’s no surprise that a new breed of criminal has been born. The cyber criminal. 

The cyber criminal is a tech savvy fraud, who uses their extensive knowledge of computer systems and how to manipulate their codes to remotely hijack devices, often without users even knowing. This leads to fraud, theft and extortion which is an increasingly common occurrence to everyday people and even large companies. What they look for is “sensitive information” which are your bank details, social media, your first and last name, your email address, your home address, your location, your phone number and your IP address. Shockingly, this information can then be sold on the dark web. 

There are a whole range of ways cyber criminals can gain access to your computer, here I will briefly describe them in non technical terms. 

Malware 

Software specifically created to “maliciously” attack your computer. Once opened they release destructive computer viruses. A computer virus self replicates destructive code throughout your computer infecting every application and file stored on there. They are usually disguised as a URL link or a downloadable file. 

Unleashing 

Malware on your computer is a cyber criminals ultimate goal, cyber criminals are able to create different types of Malware to suit their needs to sabotage your devices and even spy on them. Always make sure you know exactly what you’re downloading and what you are clicking on. Never click on a random link.

Phishing 

Phishing scams are impersonation emails you most likely would’ve seen in your “junk” file or inbox saying that you have won a competition or owe an outstanding debt to a company or service you might be using. 

Anything under the sun that can be written to grab your attention to click on their dodgy link. We all know it’s fake but whatever you do, do not click on it. If you actually click on their link, that link will most likely unleash malware onto your computer. The link could also take you to a clone site impersonating your bank asking you to sign in so they can watch you type in your password. 

Always be aware of what exactly you are signing up for and who you give your email to, avoid freely giving your email out. 

Hover your mouse over hyperlinks to see if it will show you the URL it is directing you. Anyone who is unfamiliar in your inbox are better off deleted straight away and future messages swept into the bin as well. 

When using a website, always look for the green lock on the left side of your URL screen. If there is a lock there, it means your connection is encrypted and cannot be viewed by outside sources. If there isn’t a lock, it’s best to avoid using the site. 

Ransom Hacking 

Ransom hacking is when your computer has been sabotaged by an outsider who has locked you out of your own computer, leaving you with the only choice to pay a ransom to gain access back to your computer. This is something I’ve had personal experience with.

One day out of nowhere my computer froze and became unresponsive, displaying a message that said my computer now has a virus and is unresponsive and to “call this number to get it fixed.” I couldn’t exit out of the screen (even by turning the computer off) so my only option was to call the number. At the time I had plans and was in a hurry to leave, so without thinking about it I went along with it. I called the number and it directed me to a sham technical support company from overseas. From there, the man told me that he could fix my computer for a generous fee, I agreed. 

From there he told me I needed to download a file that would give him access to my computer so that he could remotely control my computer from where he was from. I started to become suspicious at this point because I felt as if I was just giving my computer away. He stayed persistent with my objections and assured me this is simply how he can fix the computer. Silly me believed him and I downloaded the file. From there I could actually see my mouse move, he was literally remote controlling my computer. 

When I got back later that evening my computer was fixed. But ever since then I still get emails from this sham company telling me I am still subscribed to them and that if I don’t cancel my subscription with them, they will charge me $500 dollars. They never do, but they always leave a link waiting for me to click on it without a doubt to release malware. I do not use that computer anymore because it eventually got so slow it would take 10 minutes to turn on. 

Precautions on Preventing Access to Cyber Criminals 

Password 

Avoid using the same password for everything you use, cyber criminals rely on this. Once they get a hold of your email (which you would use as a “username” etc. to sign in for lots of things) all they would need is one master password and then they pretty much have access to your entire online life. 

Anti-Virus 

Great little programs you can download to scan your computer of any viruses or malicious software that will then get rid of them. You can get standard versions of these programs for free. Premium versions include regular scans for maximum protection with some extra security features for usually an annual price. Some reputable programs that have been in use for years are Malware bytes, MacAfee, Norton & Total AV. 

Update 

Updating your computer not only changes the look of what you were used to, it adds an up to date security patch. It’s best to update to the latest version where possible. Programmers regularly analyze the flaws in software to then patch up any vulnerabilities. It takes time for a hacker to break through a brand new code, so the best thing you could do to deter them is to update. 

Never do your banking or enter private sensitive information while using community WiFi sources, cyber criminals are known to hack public WiFi and track everything you do with a birds eye view of what happens on their network should you be using it. 

Avoid clicking on links from emails or websites that have come from an unknown source. Try to keep your system on the latest update to have the latest security patches on your device.

Install antivirus software, there are many reputable free anti-virus software’s such as Malware bytes, MacAfee, Norton & Total AV.

Use a strong password that does not contain personal information that can be linked to you. Back up all of your devices regularly on external devices. 

Never plug in random USB devices. 

To stay ahead of the criminals and to stay in total control of your devices. The best way to avoid the wrath of cyber-criminals is to avoid storing sensitive information on anything that connects to the internet, know exactly what you’re clicking on, install Anti-virus software, keep up to date with your latest software version and regularly back up your computer or phone.

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