Earlier this month, tens of thousands of computers across the globe were infected by malicious software (also called ransomware) as part of a massive hacking attack. The worm in question, called Wcry or WannaCry, targeted computers with Windows operating system and encrypted files in such a way that you could not access them. The only way to recover the data was to pay a bitcoin ransom amount of $300. If not paid within two days this amount increased to $600 and if that were not paid in time the information would be lost forever.
Since this attack, Windows has released an update that will protect you against attacks of this nature in the future. But whilst WannaCry might not have affected you directly, this particular update will not protect you from the likelihood of extremely crafty and imaginative and sometimes vindictive hackers and scammers looking for new ways to use technology against us.
So, what can we as individuals and companies do to try and protect ourselves from these kinds of attacks in the future?
1. Update your OS (and software) regularly.
This is possibly the easiest preventative measure for most… and yes, we know those constant reminders can be a pain, but they might just save you a whole lot of anguish should you get infected. So make sure you are running the latest version of your operating system as well as the software, browsers, plugins etc. that you use.
The passwords we tend to use such as date of birth, simple numeric patterns, pet/spouse’s name etc. are extremely predictable and weak – and therefore extremely easy to crack. Using a strong password that gets changed periodically using a unique combination of letters, numbers and symbols and making use of 2-factor authentication offered by Google, Apple and others for further safety is highly advisable.
Here are a few handy password generators available online, to make choosing a password a little easier for you.
- Norton Identity Safe Password Generator
- Symantec’s PC Tools Password Generator
- Random Password Generator
- Strong Password Generator
3. Install Anti-virus and Ad blocking software
As an extra line of defence, you should also look at installing anti-virus software onto your computer and an ad blocker for safer browsing and improved privacy. This will protect you from known viruses and vulnerabilities and lower your risk of getting infected especially as companies continuously update their software. Try any of these options for free:
4. Suspicious emails and phishing scams
Try not to respond to emails that come from someone you don’t know especially when they are asking you for personal information and have attachments or links. First, check the email address it comes from and make sure that it corresponds with the company that is actually asking for the information. Then, even if it comes from someone you know, ask yourself if they would send you anything of this nature, before clicking on any links or attachments. For more insight into this world The Top 10 Internet/Email Scams is worth a read.
5. Back up – frequently!
Even with all of the above, should you be attacked by one of these viruses, one thing you can put in place to alleviate some of the heartache will be to back up and store your content and data in the Cloud or on an external drive on a regular basis. And if you really want to sleep at night, it’s a good idea to have both these options in place.
For businesses, apart from above, it is recommended that you:
- Educate your staff
- Encrypt all of your digital assets and customer data
- Make sure your IT system logs are activated at all times
- Put up a firewall and protect your wifi
- Make use of a Virtual Private Network whenever you are not using a secure network
- Have spam filters in place
- Develop a password strategy that involves changing passwords at least once a month
- Use a Virtual Data Centre (VDC) to store and share sensitive data
- Invest in cyber insurance to improve your business’s financial situation should you suffer a cyber attack
It WILL take a little time to implement, but once set up you will not regret it and you will certainly sleep much better at night!
For information on any of RSAWEB’s products contact us on 087 470 0000 or email [email protected]