The incidences of cyber-attacks are on the rise as attackers seek to exploit and benefit from vulnerable networks for, but not limited to, financial gains. Cyber crime has the potential to cause damages to the tune of millions of dollars alongside exposing individuals, organizations and governments to a multitude of exploitative and malicious intents of criminals.
Attackers are employing sophisticated techniques by the day. Yet, it is imperative that certain guidelines be followed so that effective deterrence remains in place. While organizations and governments make a conscious effort to minimize the risks attached to cyberspace by establishing effective strategies and knowledge sharing centers to increase technical expertise, the role of individuals or organizations to incorporate simple and easy to adapt guidelines into their working routines cannot be overemphasized. An attempt is made in this article to provide five simple ways to ward off against such threats.
- Avoid visiting websites weblinks on emails or sent through text messages. Maintain extra caution and scrutiny while clicking such links. These may specially be designed to gather user information via phishing or may lead to installation of malicious software. A common technique is to make a duplicate website with a variation in spelling too subtle to notice, or a change in domain name – for instance changing ‘.com’ to ‘.net’ while keeping the primary name intact. Commonly visited websites that require personal information should be bookmarked in browsers.
- Avoid opening attachments without due scrutiny. If in doubt contact the sender directly to enquire about the contents’ authenticity.
- Be particularly wary of phishing techniques which prove to be the easiest way to siphon off personal information. These techniques are also categorized under social engineering where users are deceived into providing information on passwords, financial pins etc., to hackers. This may be achieved by designing copies of websites that give users a familiar feel and no reason to doubt authenticity. Often, phony schemes require users to login with their email or social media credentials to require access to certain material. The most effective way to keep such hackers at bay is to avoid giving out personal information unless the enquirer of this information has been thoroughly validated. As a rule of thumb consider all requests of personal information via the internet or over the phone as suspicious.
- Users should always set complex passwords. While long passwords can be difficult to crack through traditional brute force techniques, it’s the complexity that provides effective safeguards against such hacking. It’s a good practice to include both upper and lower case alphabets alongside numbers and special characters. The latter also guards against visual hacking. Also avoid using personal information like birthdays or names in passwords that exposes to hacking through social engineering.
- Depending on the criticality and environment of work, its imperative to keep antivirus, firewalls and other security software updated. Systems that routinely access public domain networks should mandatorily check for updates, and should upgrade to more sophisticated software when possible.
These are some simple but effective ways that users can employ in their routines to save themselves of the trouble that falling into hacker designed pitfalls entail. It is imminently true that on most occasions its merely the first line of defense – fortified by users themselves – that thwarts malicious intents in their footsteps.