Cyber crime is increasingly becoming one of the major potential criminal expenses for businesses in all industries. When attacks happen, they can do thousands of pounds worth of damage, including everything from reducing your ability to work on a computer, to the theft of sensitive data such as bank details. It’s not just the work environment either; malware such as viruses, and hacking attempts, can be a significant problem for the everyday user too. In this article, we’re going to go through some of the ways in which you can ensure that you guard yourself from the main cyber threats.
Virtual College offers courses on cyber crime to help businesses and individuals protect their equipment and data. Click here to find out more.
First, we’re going to briefly go through some of the terms most commonly encountered when we talk about cyber crime. Malware is the catch-all term for malicious software that’s designed to attack a system for a variety of purposes. This includes; viruses, which infect programs and code; ransomware, which threatens to publish data or restrict access unless money is paid; trojans, which pretend to be a safe program; and spyware, which aims to gather data from a user’s machine. There are of course many other types of malware, but these are some of the most commonly encountered.
Hackers are slightly different in that they are the people generally behind malware attacks. They are the ones attempting to maliciously gain data or cause damage. Malware is one of the tools that they use, but they also use other techniques such as phishing and security exploits to achieve their aims.
Below are some of the best ways to ensure that malware and hackers find it more difficult to make you a victim of cyber crime. It’s important to be aware however that it is not always possible to be 100% safe.Regular Updates
Keeping your operating system (such as Windows) and other programs such as your web browser updated to the latest version is hugely important. Hackers and the malware itself will often use vulnerabilities in software to achieve their aims. Cyber crime and cyber crime prevention is often a race to see who can identify and either fix or exploit gaps in software first. If your software is up-to-date, then it means it’s much harder for malicious entities to exploit it.
Security software such as Microsoft’s own Security Essentials is hugely important for guarding against malware in a number of different ways. It can detect dangerous files, neutralise threats, and throw up warnings when you are about to do something that may pose a security risk, such as visiting a known-dangerous website. Always have one such program in place – there are many for you to choose from.
Your everyday programs and security software can help prevent attacks, and advise you of dangers, but they cannot entirely prevent you from making a mistake that allows malicious activity to occur. You must always be careful when opening emails and visiting websites to ensure that they are not going to cause problems. Phishing in particular requires users to fall for scams, so read up on how you can spot fake emails and websites. If you’re part of an organisation, make sure that all employees are on the same page - your company security is only as strong as the weakest link.
By now, everyone should be well aware of the importance of having a good password. Hackers in particular will use numerous methods to get past your password protection, which is why it’s incredibly important that you use the strongest possible combination of letters, numbers, and characters if possible. Guessing is the simplest way they might crack your password, but they may also use brute force attacks that continually generate potential passwords until the right one is found, or even keyloggers that spy on you entering your passwords. On this subject, it’s also important to use different passwords for different accounts to avoid one breakthrough giving access to everything.
The final precaution we recommend is about limiting the potential damage that might occur if malicious access is obtained. Try not to store large amounts of sensitive data in places that are vulnerable. External hard drives can be useful in this instance, used only when you need them, and also, limit what is kept on the cloud, as you are then relying on an external party to keep your data safe, whether it’s your own private information, or your customer's’ bank details.