Reduce Viruses, malware and phishing

Digital crime is on the increase, it is possible for someone or a group of people to drain personal and commercial account assets, get access to confidential information or to create havoc in the public, workspace and home, without having a physical presence at the location.

Disruptive and costly acts of vandalism and theft are all too easy to replicate, many have lost millions in savings and commodities, trades and general time required to fix any losses, if at all possible.

There are attacks that target web traffic, slowing down standard services for many, even cutting off emergency utilities and services, with the advent of distributed services including the Internet of Things (IoT) there are now many ways to infiltrate different networks, no single person or massive organization is safe.

Most losses are financial and this can be in the form of data breaches with the use of lax passwords, non-encrypted data and phishing attacks where important or critical key data is extracted through fake emails and unsolicited phone calls, those posing to be authorized personnel or maybe from a utility company phoning up as a payment has been ‘missed’ or some details on the ‘system’ need updating.

It is very easy to fall for these traps as they are at times well choreographed as well as practised and well versed.

With social media more information is easier to extract leaving ourselves open to privacy exploits, ransomware is on the rise too that can just as it says, holding you to ransom with a computer malware program encrypting all your data with a cryptographic string and key that is only available to the hacker, a set timer countdown is put into place, if you do not pay the amount demanded which is normally by Bitcoin – the peer to peer digital cryptocurrency, all your files are left inaccessible.

Attacks like this can be user-initiated when clicking on a web link, they can also be due to attachments in email that launch a computer virus or system malware unknowingly, sometimes an invoice demand is the story to initiate but other times a trusted document with an in-built macro is shared and opened.

It is easy to get overwhelmed at times with technology advances and so it is imperative to learn some of the defense mechanisms too.

  • If you get a random phone call with the aim to extract information, be very wary, get a return phone number and details of the caller, any legitimate organization or company will get you a reference that you can give when calling the main advertised number to continue the call – you will know for sure you are talking to the correct party.
  • Try not to open attachments in emails on your computer or phone from unknown senders as well as that run virus and malware scanners on documents from co-workers and friends as they could well have been infected.
  • Never let unauthorized parties insert USB and thumb drives into your equipment, it is possible to inject damaging software into the computer this way, from keyloggers, viruses, ransomware, malware and more.
  • If you have any device connected to the internet, change its default password so it cannot be accessed by those that should not.
  • Don’t have listening devices if confidential information is prevalent, devices like Alexa and wearable Smartware hardware can be easily hacked and infiltrated by outside parties.
  • Use different passwords for each computer or device, a three-word phrase with special characters is ideal.
  • If you get an odd email, don’t reply to it, open the attachment or navigate a web link, if you don’t respond you will not be opening yourself to a possible attack.
  • Don’t install “money-making” apps or games on work machines as these are often hubs for viruses and scams.
  • Don’t visit internet links if you are unsure of their origin.

Whether at home or in the office we must protect ourselves against personal and financial data loss as well as not giving off too many digital breadcrumbs that others can collect and use against us, often without us knowing.