09 Oct Cyber security awareness month: are you secure?
The whole of October is national cyber security month. In a year of high profile hackings and security vulnerabilities such as heartbleed and shellshock hitting headlines businesses and consumers alike are thinking a lot more about their security online. In this blog I will explore the ways we can, unknowingly, leave ourselves vulnerable and also talk about software that can help us be more secure online.
In a study by Ratheon in 2013 only 34% of the 18-26 year olds surveyed had updated their anti-virus software in the past month, meaning 66% were leaving themselves vulnerable to new exploits and viruses. Making sure anti-virus software is updated frequently is one of the easiest ways you can secure yourself online. Scanning your computer regularly can also help remove any unwanted software that may have installed itself as well as pick up and remove any viruses. The worst thing you can do if you suspect, or indeed have confirmation, your computer is infected is just leave it. My step father did this a couple of years ago because, and I quote, “well its not doing anything” A couple of months later his whole hard drive corrupted and he lost 5 years of family photos and important documents. When people think of anti-virus software we usually always think of McAfee, Norton or Kasperskey but there are free alternatives; AVG, Avast and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware all offer comprehensive protection and scanning for free with additional features, such as data recovery and PC optimisation in a paid version.
Free wifi is something everyone takes for granted with more and more businesses offering it to try draw in customers. Ratheons’ survey showed 66% of those surveyed has used free, un-password protected wifi in the past month. While there is nothing wrong with this the risk comes from data sent over the network. Free wifi is incredibly vulnerable to interception, while its fine for browsing you should be very wary of sending any sensitive information on an unsecure network. Think about it this way, you wouldnt walk into a crowded street and hand out your account number and sort code to passing strangers, but that could be exactly what you are doing if you enter them into a form then send it over an insecure network.
Passwords are something a lot of us can be guilty of being careless with. Whether its using the same password for every account you own, not changing passwords frequently or picking something too simple as a password. Most of us have done it, I’ll even admit to being lazy with password on a few occasions. It is easy to get into the mindset of “well it wont ever be me that gets hacked.” There is also the issue of remembering that super secure password. Last year SplashDash used the leaked Adobe passwords to compile a list of the most “common” and therefore most insecure passwords people use online. 123456, password and qwerty were all in the top 5. At Geonet Solutions we use a program called LastPass that is installed on all company machines, this generates secure passwords and saves them securely against a website, I have written previous blog posts goes into more detail about lastpass that you can read here. KeePass, 1Password and Passpack are other alternatives that work in a similar way. Though if you still prefer to think of your own passwords, follow XKCD’s advice below.