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Cyber Technology: How Were You Hacked?

cyber-security-computer-hackingWe’ve all thought ‘it won’t happen to me’ but clicking on an innocent looking link could be the start of a computer hacking nightmare!

Cyber-crime is on the rise and these days anyone can fall victim. With over 90% of adults in the UK actively using the internet to stay connected with family and friends, work, shop and use online banking, there is a higher risk than ever of being targeted by hackers! But how will you know if you were hacked? How did they get your information in the first place?

Here are some of the most common ways that hackers steal our information and ways you can avoid being targeted!

cyber-security-how-were-you-hacked1. Phishing scams
Have you had an email show up in your inbox from your bank, subscription service or online payment site asking you for your details or telling you that you’re owed money and to fill in the form with your bank details so they can ‘refund’ you… yep, that’s a scam and it’s one of the oldest (and most successful) tricks in the book!

According to recent studies, 4 in 10 of us still fall victim to these scams everyday!

How to stay safe:
First off, remember that any financial services, such as your bank or an online payment service, like PayPal, wouldn’t email you asking for your personal details; the information is far too sensitive and would break data protection laws. If they wanted to get in touch with you, they would contact you either by letter or phone call.
Always think twice about the email – does it seem genuine?
It’s a good idea to check the senders URL to make sure it’s from who it’s supposed to be from– often the email will look exactly like a company’s email template but the senders URL will be a randomly generated bunch of letters linked to an email service – however, hackers are sometimes smarter than that and will copy an email address you know and make a subtle change – for example to (can you spot the change?) so you’ll need to double check before clicking on any links or downloading any software.

2. Password hacking
Did you know there are websites that provide default usernames and passwords for various models of routers?! Most of us keep our data-sensitive online activity (like online banking for example) for the safe environment of home rather than using a public Wi-Fi connection…but if you haven’t protected yourself by changing the default password on your Wi-Fi router, someone could still be watching everything you do!
Another way someone can gain access to your account is the use of weak passwords. Make sure you avoid using a password that’s obvious, like a pet’s name or your birthday.

How to stay safe:
Make sure you use a strong password made up of at least one capital letter and one symbol. Avoid using the same password for everything and make sure you change your passwords at least once every three months. For added security try using three unrelated words as well as numbers and symbols, as this will take someone years to crack – and by that time you’ll have changed it.

3. Downloading free software
It’s really no surprise that downloading free software comes with its risks. Unless you know the software is absolutely safe (like an app from a trusted company) it’s just safer to part with a little money rather than risk the headache (and danger) in the long run.
How to stay safe:
If you do decide to download a program or software, run it through a virus checker before downloading so it can flag any issues before it’s too late. Also check out the reviews from other users, and, if it’s an app, check out how many people have downloaded it. This will give you a rough idea of what you’re getting yourself into.

4. Ransomware
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that downloads onto your computer after you click on a certain link or download a dodgy app. Once it’s installed on your computer, the hacker can lock down your operating system, taking away access from all your personal files and documents until you pay a ransom fee. In many cases, even when you pay the ransom your files won’t be returned so it’s essential you prevent this type of virtual attack.
How to stay safe:
Always back up your files to an online storage area: Dropbox, the cloud or Google drive are great for this! Another option is a secure external source, like a hard-drive – just make sure you password protect your files so if it gets lost or stolen, you don’t make it easy for someone to get their hands on your data!

5. Malicious mobile apps
These days we almost live on our phones, so obviously we download apps for the various programs, social media platforms and software we want to use…however, even if you use your trusty Apple store or Google play store, not every app available is safe and legitimate! Some apps contain malicious code that can seriously put your privacy at risk – we’re talking access to your accounts, texts, contacts, emails, photos, microphone and your location! Pretty scary right?!

How to stay safe:
Always check the permissions you’re accepting when you download the app. If it’s not a well-known or popular app, check the reviews and ratings before downloading – our top tip? Try and avoid downloading an app if it has less than 30,000 downloads. Never download pirated apps or ones from third party app stores – you’re opening yourself up to viruses and malicious software accessing your personal data.
While you’re never 100% safe against a cyber-attack, using these tips can help to keep you safe online and deter would-be hackers from trying to get your information. 
Want to learn more tips for the world of IT? Read this next:

5 Tips to Securing Your Career in IT now  

The Training Room | 28/08/2018 14:00:00

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