Author David Riley
Did you know that World Wide Web turned 25 recently? It seems strange to think that something we use so much every day hasn’t been around for very long. It could be argued that it is probably the single greatest development of the digital age allowing access to the worlds collective knowledge in an instant (depending on where you live of course!).
The internet is a wonderful thing but it can be a scary place
The advent of the internet albeit slowly (at first) has changed almost every aspect of our daily lives. Everything is available to us online. You can shop, bank, play games, socialise with friends and even meet lovers or perhaps your future spouse. It has made the world a smaller place and simplified our lives beyond recognition.
But as always, with great power comes great responsibility.
The World Wide Web is not only a place of great opportunity; it is also a place where we run risk of falling victim to those who would profit from our lack of knowledge of this ‘brave new world’. Just like the pioneers of the early settlers in America, the World Wide Web is similar to the ‘Wild West’ of old. It is rich with possibility, but our lack of knowledge is leaving us vulnerable. To ‘settle’ in this space, we need to understand some of the threats that our out in the wilderness.
Crime hasn’t changed, it’s moved
Crime has a new home and that home is everywhere. Criminals, as they have always done are evolving their practices and have done what the rest of the world has done; They’ve gone ‘mobile’. They’re leveraging the internet to take common crimes to the digital landscape. From theft, extortion, harassment and even vandalism, they’ve simply switched the physical act of crime, to the virtual. The main benefit the internet has provided criminals is that they can reach out to billions of potential victims in an instant and they have multiple tools in their arsenal to do so.
Here’s just a three methods cyber criminals use to target you.
Cryptolocker and friends
There has been a significant rise in online-extortion via ransomware (a type of malware) over the last 12mths and everyone who uses a computer is at risk. ‘Cryptolocker’ and other variants encrypt files on systems and then present a warning to users that to recover their files a payment must be made using a generally untraceable digital currency. These attacks have moved from home users to enterprises as the damage can be much greater and costs much higher resulting in higher ransom demands.
Let’s go Phishing
A very common attack vector is commonly conducted via email or over the phone. A call or email purporting to be from your bank or other service provider asking you to login or provide security and financial details attempts to trick you into handing over these details, so they can use this to log into your accounts and steal your money or begin buying services. This form of attack can also be used to deliver malware like ‘Cryptolocker’ by encouraging you to click on a link to a malicious website.
At a quick glance the above web address looks fine but look closer and you’ll see a slight spelling mistake. Cybercriminals often register web addresses (known as URLS) in attempt to exploit human errors or in phishing attacks to make the URLs look legitimate at a quick glance. They then create a fake website which you will be directed to (via a ‘phishing email’) or mistakenly enter on your browser.
Prevention is better than a cure
These attacks are usually successful via manipulation of the end user and therefore the most appropriate remedy is education and here are some simple guidelines to educate your users and your friends and family
1. Ensure you use a good Anti-virus product and it is routinely updated.
2. Don’t click on links in emails.
3. Do not open unexpected attachments.
4. Use a well-known search engine to find a site instead of directly typing in the address as it will generally correct any mistakes.
5. Ensure your browser, plugins and software are fully patched.
6. Don’t download illegal software it is routinely infected with malware.
Consider an information security management system such as ISO 27001.
We can tame the ‘Wild Wild Web’ only by being aware of the dangers and preparing for what lays ahead. There are great opportunities online. Just don’t make give the opportunities to the bad guys.
Be aware. Be prepared. Be Cyber Safe.
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