As some Irish businesses and organisations are still dealing with the fallout from the latest ‘Wannacry’ Ransomware cyber hack that affected over 200,000 worldwide across 150 countries, is it any wonder that the rest of us, i.e. you, me, local schools and SMEs, etc., are still cautious when it comes to turning on our computers?
And who could blame us? Especially as this latest ambush is pretty serious stuff, if you are to take note of Security IT expert Conor Flynn who, while speaking on RTE’s Six One News, warned viewers that the breach is likely to be a “reconnaissance mission” for future attacks; meaning buckle up folks, ‘cos it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
While the internet is an amazing tool, offering us fantastic possibilities, it’s now crystal clear to every one of us that we are all highly vulnerable to cybercrime, with even the likes of a major State body such as the HSE admitting they’d identified ‘three suspected cases,’ on their sites earlier this week by what is a new and sophisticated type of ‘ransomware’ that apparently houses a ‘worm’ capable of spreading itself throughout our networks in an attempt to carry out, what experts believe, ‘is the largest ever online extortion scheme.’
And so, if you’ve been a bit lax regarding your online security or you’re worried your PC may be at risk, we’ve got some helpful hints and tips you might like to follow. However, bear in mind, we are not IT experts and this information is for guidance purposes only and is not intended to be used as a substitute for specialist advice.
* If you’re running very old software, i.e. anything older than Windows 10 for example, update it now. Do this regularly by plugging into ‘Automatic Updates.’
* Configure your ‘Security Settings’ so they’re high enough not to interfere with your own daily work, but are secure enough to try to keep hackers at bay.
* Security: If you’re handing out bank details, purchasing an item or paying a bill online, check in your browser and make sure the address you’re dealing with begins with a #https: the ‘S’ stands for Security – if the address is missing that vital ‘S’, don’t hand over any of your details.
* Phishing: Phishing (fishing) is a way of stealing your identity with hackers/criminals using fraudulent websites and setting up false email addresses to contact you in an attempt to extract your personal data, your passwords and your credit card information and banking details. If you get a suspicious email, look at the address, look at the spelling or grammar, look at the terminology, look at the email address itself…does it have a series of numbers or random characters in it, keep an eye on generic requests, as in does the sender, who purports to be from your bank, refer to you as Sir/Madam…if so, don’t open it, your bank will never ask for personal information via email; they will also know you by name. Report any incidents to your bank immediately. Never use links on a suspicious email to connect to a website unless you’re sure they’re authentic and from a trusted source.
* Never use generic passwords: Use a mnemonic as your personal password. Think of a sentence and use the first letter of every word in that sentence to create a unique password. For example, The Roscommon People Is The County’s Most Read News Paper – TRPITCMRNP! Now that’s gotta be difficult to crack!
* Public Wi-Fi: Many people take advantage of free public Wi-Fi; however, while this should be okay for reading newspapers or watching the likes of Netflix, we should never use it for anything personal, especially banking. Think about it, it’s free and it’s public, meaning there’s potential for everyone to look in at what you’re doing.
* Routinely back up all files to an external drive and do not leave it plugged into your PC. Never rely on the likes of Dropbox or iCloud as back-up; these are still connected to your PC.
* If you feel your PC has been infected, do not pay any money to hackers, unplug your Wi-Fi, plug in an external drive and download everything you’ve got – again with your Wi-Fi switched off – and press ‘Save.’
* Take a screenshot, unplug all external devices, unplug all other networks connected to your PC, including the rest of the family’s PCs, and get help from an expert showing him/her the screenshot so they’ll at least have a chance at being able to see where it all began.