Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Increasing Cyber Attacks Exacerbate Global Concern

Cyber Security
Courtesy: Global Cyber Security Center

“There are two kinds of big companies in the United States – those who’ve been hacked… and those who do not know they’ve been hacked.” – FBI Director James B. Comey

The increasing number of sophisticated and high profile cyber attacks on companies, government agencies and individuals in Kenya and elsewhere have exacerbated global concern on internet security. Hackers pilfer people’s identities with the intent of obtaining sensitive private information. Our private e-mails, credentials and most treasured photographs are now available online. Cyber criminals endevour to get their hands on such information.

There are many logical threats facing internet users such a viruses, Worms and Trojan Horses. These threats distort computer systems bereft of any form of physical damage. Some viruses program our computers into continually sending out confidential information to a specified location inhabited by a hacker. Such information includes passwords of bank details, customer details and even website credentials. Conversely, worms spread on the computer network  and explores the security weakness in the operating system before propagating into the host system while Trojan Horses stay in computers to permit a hacker control the computer from a remote site. In Kenya, some cyber operators are known to use KEY LOGGERS – spyware programs that keep a record of keys pressed on the computer keyboard without the awareness of the user - to infiltrate personal information.

In January 2014, Yahoo!Mail Service (with 273 million users) was hacked while in late February and early March the same year, eBay was hacked where employee log-ins were tampered with. The information of about 233 million eBay customers was affected. The company advised its customers and users to change their passwords.

Most online security experts argue that Java - software that shows the amount of content on Web browsers -  is highly susceptible. They advise computer users to disable Java software in their Web browsers.

Ten Tips to Protect Yourself from Hackers

1.      Do not use the same passwords for all your accounts.

Most people have the inclination to use the same passwords for all their accounts – cell phone, MPESA, Western Union, Paypal, ATM PINs, Gmail, Yahoo!, LinkedIn passwords, name them. Using the same PIN is easy, isn’t it? Unfortunately, if a person were to assess your PIN or password, they may be tempted to test it on many sites.

2.      Mind How you Use Social Media

Most social media users provide ostensibly every bit of their personal information on social media , be it Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Providing such pertinent information may abet cyber attacks. Hackers utilize the information you share on the public profile to answer pertinent questions related to password and PIN reset tools. It is important to LOCK DOWN YOUR SETTINGS on your public profile.

3.      Create Two-step Verification

Probably, everyone with a Gmail account understands the two-step verification, otherwise called the two-factor authentication. Google provides you with such security safeguards with the intent of providing an extra security layer. Anytime you sign in, Google requires you to enter a different code – sent to you through a voice call or text.

4.      Pay Attention

Apparently, paying attention is important when using any internet service and Web browser – Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome etc. Ensure you pay attention to anything on the internet, fishy or otherwise.

5.      Do not Just Click Links

Most of us are victims of some hackers who send links through social media or even e-mails. West Africans, mostly Nigerians, are known for this. Be wary of such links. DO NOT JUST CLICK LINKS anyhow. Again, pay attention!

6.      Use Strong Passwords

 Others use simple-to-guess and weak passwords. Online security experts advise that you should mix lowercase and uppercase letters, numerals and symbols. In addition, ensure you change your PINs and passwords at least once every SIX MONTHS.

7.      Ensure you have a Phone Password

Today, almost everybody has a smart phone. However, most of us prefer to use ‘patterns’ as opposed to passwords. You MUST password-protect your smart phone to safeguard your private information.

8.      Be careful with E-business

Electronic business (e-business) is the new fad in town, at least amongst Nairobians. It is important that a site has a small PADLOCK ICON next to its HTTP address. You must check the padlock before keying in your credit card number or passwords. For those using Paypal or Skrill, you better take the precaution.

9.      Secure all Your Wireless Connection

Ensure that your home wireless network is safe by using a password. Those who use public Wi-Fi networks must be wary too. You must be careful on the kind of information you send over Wi-Fi networks. Experts recommend HotSpot Shield to help you determine a network’s safety.

10.  Protect Your Computer and Web Brower

When using a Windows Personal Computer (PC), ensure that the spyware or anti-virus program is up-to-date. The Operating System (OS) should be up-to-date too. And for those who love Google, you know Google Chrome is the thing for you. In some quarters, some people argue that it is advisable to download Mozilla Firefox using Internet Explorer. 

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