We now have our basic understanding developed regarding how hacking works and why would anybody be interested to steal your personal data. Coming on to the prevention against cyber attacks, let history show us the importance of these practices:
- Keep updating your system:
NSA found out a technical weak link in Microsoft software. What is NSA? Microsoft users used “SMB Protocol (Service Message Block)” for sharing data over a network. There was a flaw in this mechanism that some portions of this system could be tricked to accept data from remote attackers i.e. from unidentified and strange systems. How can a hacker enter my system? Basically, users were unable to identify a threat sealed as a normal email or a picture on internet which they would click and ignorantly allow NSA to enter their system to spy on them.
The tool NSA had used to exploit Microsoft users was called “Eternal Blue”. When the news broke out in 2017, Microsoft amended the defects and released an updated version of SMB protocol. Unfortunately, users that were not in habit of updating their system continued to remain cognizant and did not update their system to avail the correction provided by Microsoft. Those computers remained effected and many of them were continued to be a spying target. Why should I be concerned of being a target?
So the point is how many of us get daily news from our software companies about their achievements or failures? Quite unlikely. Hence, it is essential to update our systems from time to time to avail better security features instead of waiting for official announcements.
- Install an anti-virus software:
A virus is a malicious code that is programmed to damage healthy files in a system. Whereas, the purpose of anti-virus software is to detect such infected files and block their damage. Every file has its own code and location on a computer. The virus files are duplicated copies of healthy files with minor changes. E.g. if File A was created and saved with a code 00ABC1980101 a virus file may have a code 11ABC1980100. 3-digit change denotes the difference. So, anti-virus software investigates for a duplicated file(s) and detects the difference between them. Once a duplicated file is found it automatically deletes it or quarantines it.
- Do not turn down your system firewall:
Firewalls are our mandatory gateways. What is a gateway? If we remove the door to our systems anybody could walk right in. It is important to administer who steps in and what comes in from whom. To keep a check every computer must have an active firewall.
- Do not open or reply to spam emails:
Spam emails are unnecessary emails containing useless advertisements, junk and sometimes viruses. As soon as you open a spam email, click on any of its content or reply to spam email there is a chance you just allowed a spy to access your data. To avoid any repercussions, simply delete any caught “spam” or delete email from an unknown source if it was not caught by regular spam filters.
- Do not download data from insecure websites:
Online security culture is quite weak when it comes to common people like us. The reason is lack of awareness. Only some of us notice if a website is secure or not. But what does a “Not Secure” website mean?
A trustworthy website should have following properties:
- Encryption: Users should be free to navigate a website without having their activities tracked.
- Integrity: Users should not worry of data loss during transfer phase. Message from sender must reach the receiver.
- Authentication: Users should know that they are contacting the correct personnel.
Hence, any website that lacks these characteristics is susceptible to any hacker’s mischief. A hacker can leash a virus in an image or a link. That is how a virus on the “Not Secure” website can be downloaded in your system easily.
- Do not click on unknown links:
This is pretty clear now. Attach a virus code behind a link and spread the infection as soon as the link is clicked. So, refrain from being fooled into cash prize links, limited time-deals from Channel links etc.
- Do not keep names and birthdays as your password:
This is the most repeated precautionary measure because one form of hacking does involve taking random guesses too. In this digital age where our names and birthdays are not hidden, a hacker can trick you and then use your own shared credentials for further penetration in to your system.
- Do not repeat passwords for different accounts:
It is advised to keep different passwords for different platforms because when one account goes down you should have a backup. A hacker can access all your accounts if he has your password. So save yourself from every possible extent of damage.
- Do not share excessive information on social media, especially not publicly:
Sharing pictures is a lesser problem than living on our cameras is. Recording each and every moment of our life and putting it out globally is dangerous for many previously discussed issues. Give less power over your own life!
- Do not keep secret pictures in your phones, laptops or even in Cloud services:
IPhone may be safer than smartphone. Cloud services might be more space saving than old hard drives and databases. But immoral trouble-mongers and the problem of loopholes and software flaws still persist for which our data is never entirely safe. Therefore, it is better to not save any sensitive data in your gadget. Cyber attacks on celebrities such as Mark Zuckerberg, Jennifer Lawrence, Harry Styles and Bella Thorne teach us that prevention is better than cure.
- Turn off your mobile location when it’s not necessarily needed:
Our goal is to give away least amount of data to tech giants and spying agencies. Reasons are stated here. Some of you may not know that our location history is saved by Google even when our location is off. How? Our dependent life on Google and its apps have made us vulnerable. Google maps, Google weather as well as normal Google searches are saved even if a user has disabled the location saving option. Listen for yourself.
These were the reasons why such basic parameters are repeatedly suggested. These primary prevention techniques can save us from major loss and grave damage. I hope this was informative, helpful yet easy to understand for all of you.