Online security: are we really safe online?
Posted: February 8th 2016
Can online security really affect me?
We all have accounts online. Login details, sensitive data, things that we wouldn't want to supply to the general public, especially a stranger that we've never met before. Things such as bank details, social media accounts and personal documents are a part of our everyday life. Emails and printouts have replaced the old handwritten letter, and one in four web users will use online banking every single day! Obviously this is a great step forward, as it makes our everyday lives easier - but it can come at a cost if you're not careful. Online security matters, and you can find out why below.
But everyone uses the Internet - it must be safe, right?
That's just it. According to the United Nations agency, there are in fact 3.2 billion people on the Internet, and as we know, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch. Some people out there will pry on personal data, accounts and just about anything they can get their hands on. A popular British bank was recently on the news due to being the victim of a cyber attack, which obviously caused a lot of distress for all of their customers. We shouldn't have to worry about falling victim to attacks or theft online, but it can happen, and as the saying goes, it's better to be safe than sorry.
What is a hacker capable of? Should I be worried?
Yes and no. A hacker can be capable of a lot, depending on their skillset, motives, and of course how many people are involved in the attack. Often, big companies will be targeted by groups so that they can make a name for themselves, becoming "infamous" through the Web and even the news. However, hackers can also send viruses around the Internet to target everyday users, getting into their computers. This could include:
- Keylogging - Keylogging is a form of virus which will log everything you type on your keyboard. This is less common today, as it is often picked up by just about any antivirus software, but it can still happen - and once it does, the person on the receiving end would be able to see everything you have typed since having the virus.
- Remote access tools - I personally find this one quite scary. Hackers are able to gain full access to your computer through malicious code, where they will be able to see your screen, passwords, and even your webcam if you have one. They can also control your computer, meaning they could point you to any sinister sites, or go through your files and emails. Please only open emails and files from people that you trust.
Another popular form of hacking today is Facebook phishing. Often, if you have liked pages or are part of groups on Facebook, you will see links that look too good to be true, or just plain suspicious. Nine times out of ten, this is because they are.
Unfortunately, there are ways to give certain applications on Facebook full access to your account; what you post, what pages you like and who you message. This virus will spread the link, affecting others online. The only straightforward way to avoid this is to not click on them, but if you think you may have fallen victim to this, change your password, review all your permissions and security, and then report it to the guys at Facebook to help keep everything safe!
What if I own a website? Am I more vulnerable?
Not with the right protection. There is a range of plugins and security features available to ensure that your web design is functional and safe. Your website should always come with password-protected databases that are backed up weekly, and facilities that will prevent people from trying to brute-force their way into the content management system. Also, if your site is an e-commerce website, you need secure payment systems, such as Paypal and Worldpay, in place to keep everything completely safe from hackers.
What should I do to stay safe?
The first step towards online security is to keep secure passwords for all your accounts. "Brute force" attacks exist, which are attacks that will go through pretty much every word in the dictionary to try and guess your password. This is why you may often be advised to put special characters and capital letters in your password, and keep it over eight characters. In a sense, the more "random" your password is, the harder it would be to guess, by human or machine. The password "Online3SecuriTy!", for example, would be a lot more safe than "onlinesecurity".
If the password is something numeric, such as a bank pin, please don't use the current year or your date of birth, and definitely not "1111" or "1234". If people were manually trying to guess your bank pin, this would more than likely be the first things they try, so use something random yet memorable.
Another important step is to have a good antivirus installed on your computer, and even your mobile phone where possible. There are plenty of strong antivirus programs available for download, both free and paid. Websites such as PCAdvisor, Which? and CNET will help you make your choice, giving their own review and customer reviews too.
Don't take the risk - make sure you are protected today!