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The state of cyber-security today and how to protect yourself

Written by  Carl Perkins - Technical Specialist May 09, 2018

During the last 2 decades, the internet has grown exponentially and has become so ingrained in our lifestyles many of us wouldn’t know what to do without it.

The popularity of the internet and our growing reliance on it has fuelled the growth of cybercrime and unethical behaviour against regular users.

In particular, it feels like in the past 2 years the issues relating to cybersecurity and data privacy have gone from bad to worse, it feels like there is a significant new incident announced on a daily basis.

Last year we saw WannaCry hold over 200,00 computers to ransom, which was then followed by Petya and NotPetya. It was later revealed that the National Security Agency originally developed the exploits.

More recently, and while not illegal, we have seen the significant data breach by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica which allowed Cambridge Analytica to gain access to detailed private information for hundreds of millions of users.

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Within the last week, there have been reports of large-scale hacks on Drupal websites, that then hijacked the processing power of your computer to mine cryptocurrency. Some of the targets included Lenovo and many US government websites.

Unfortunately, things have become so bad you can’t just assume your data is safe, or that your computer is virus free just because you run Windows Defender in the background.

Everyone needs to apply common sense when protecting themselves online, doing the bare minimum is no longer adequate. In order to reduce your risks online, there are multiple things you should consider to protect yourself and some of these include:

  • Ensure your computer is always up to date and running Windows defender as a bare minimum – WannaCry exploited out of date machines and could have been easily avoided
  • Be thoughtful about what personal information your post where – this has become increasingly important in the world of social media, you should go through all your privacy settings and make sure you are happy with what is posted
  • Be cautious about what apps or services you provide access to your social media. All those free games you play on Facebook or download on your phone need a way to earn money. They do this by collecting data on your and/or targeting adverts to you. If it is free, you are the product.
  • Using a VPN is becoming increasingly important, this redirects your traffic through a secure server, it will then hide your IP address and some more advanced services will block tracking and malware. Use What’s My IP to find out some more information on VPN services and what they can do for you.
  • Consider a more secure router, nearly all the options from Netgear and Asus have been hacked in recent years, allowing people to snoop on your traffic or use the router for denial of services attacks. At the very least make sure your router is regularly updated, alternatively think about the F-Secure Sense which is claims to be the most secure router on the market. Alternatively, any router that can have OpenWRT installed on it is a good option, for the extra paranoid among us, you can even use one of the VPN services recommended by Whats My IP on the router itself.

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