By Abraham Deutsch
on Wednesday, July 27th, 2016
in Computer Viruses and Protection against Them.
Computers have become an integral part of our lives. They help us in making our lives easier and they also keep us connected to the world at all times. Even though their connection to the world is what makes them so powerful, it is also the reason why they’re at risks which can lead to a compromise of our privacy and security. Two of the major factors which put computers at risk are malware and viruses. The viruses are usually transparent to the user so their details are not as important to a regular user and it is to understand and learn about ways in which a user can protect his computer against threats posed by viruses.
Who is At Risk?
The important thing to understand is that virtually all computers are at risk of being affected by viruses. This is not limited to older computers, even brand new computers can get affected and if you’re on the internet and you’re not using any method of protection and being vigilant about your use of the internet then your computer is at a very high risk of getting infected.
The people who design and spread viruses are essentially software engineers and the virus itself is just a piece of code. There are many reasons why people develop and spread viruses.
The most common reason is to gain control of your computer and use it for specific purposes. This is mostly used by programmers with a criminal bent of mind and the infected computers are used as a kind of proxies through which they carry out their nefarious activities all over the world. This kind of hacking through virus is a mean of covering their tracks. The people who’re at the receiving end of this may have to face legal actions.
Another common purpose of this activity is to make money. There are viruses which can gain access to your private information from your computers such as your banking details, passwords and credit card information. This information can then be used for gaining access to your funds.
The most personal reason is usually to hack for the purpose of showing off their skills or taking a vendetta from someone. This is the worst class of people who take pleasure in hurting people.
The people who commit crimes using their computers are known as Cybercriminals. These cyber criminals are intelligent people who’re very skilled in their craft and they use a wide range of tools to gain access to your private information.
The world is full of examples of hacking but recently there has been a surge in the number of highly profile cases of hacking.
In August of 2015, a group of hackers gained access to an email system in the Pentagon which has been in use by the Joint Chiefs of Chief. The military had to take the system offline to prevent access to sensitive information.
Back in the April of 2015, a group of Russian hackers intercepted some emails which were sent and received by President Obama.
There have been many other instances of hacks into the information systems of some big names in the industry including the likes of LinkedIn, Sony, Target, eBay and others. All businesses, regardless of their size, are a target of this activity.
Do Small Businesses Need to be concerned about the Threats?
It has often been assumed that the bigger a business is, the more it is attractive for the hackers because of the sheer size of the data they can expect to get their hands on. It had been true in the past but more recently, things have changed to a great degree. Security experts are now of the view that small businesses are an attractive target for cybercriminals and the attractiveness of these small businesses as potential targets is increasing with each passing day.
Training 2000 is one of the most respected group training associations for young people. Training 2000’s business manager for Cyber Security, Sarah Green, who is also a renowned cyber security expert in her own right is of the view that small businesses believe themselves to not be a potential target for cyber criminals because of their small size whereas the reality is entirely different and the complete opposite is true. Hackers understand the fact that small businesses are very easy targets because of their lower defenses as compared to the large organizations. This obliviousness is something which puts the small businesses at very high risk of being targeted by the cybercriminals.
Symantec is one of the world’s largest cyber security companies. The latest threat report from Symantec said that small and mid-sized businesses are the victims of cyber criminals for nearly 60 percent of the time.
Ponemon Institute is a public policy think-tank which collects data on privacy and information security-related themes and recommends for the implementation of some necessary changes to improve the security of the data. In their recent research, they discovered that nearly one-third of the companies they collected the data from had been a target of some kind of a cyber-attack in the last year. Over three-quarters of all businesses which were attacked by the cyber criminals, were unable to fully recover the data from company’s computer.
An important hack occurred in the past week where the hackers hacked into the computers from remote locations. This happened for a bit longer than a month and using the saved passwords in the browser, the hackers emptied eBay, PayPal and Microsoft bank accounts. The cyber-theft is believed to be generated from China after the incoming IP address was traced back to China.
The hackers chose the night hours to hack into the bank accounts, Amazon, Microsoft, eBay and PayPal and steal thousands of dollars from different consumers. Most of the companies settled and took care of the scenario, except for PayPal. A victim reported that he woke up after the hack happened, saw that the TeamViewer was used, after checking his PayPal account, he recognized that all the money in his account was gone. The victim called the PayPal claims office but the claim was rejected twice, saying that the transactions were made through his computer. Then, the victim insisted on talking to the Supervisor and the agent asked the victim to hold for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, the Supervisor processed the refunds but the account was locked. Furthermore, it took the victim 3 days to get the account unlocked again.
However, there were some lucky people who caught the hackers in the act. They were in the process of using TeamViewer when the screen minimized, TeamViewer showed that a session was in progress and the mouse started to move on its own. The people closed the tabs and the hackers moved onto the next person in the list. Although some people stopped them, but the hack is on a bigger scale. As Axel Schmidt from TeamViewer acknowledged, that the number of takeovers was significant.
The major difference between this hack and others was that in secured websites, the website asks for security checks before logging in and also saves them for future reference, which makes it difficult for hackers to get through. However, in this hack, the hackers logged in through the victims computers, making it easy for them to hack it. Additionally, many people save their passwords on their browsers, increasing the vulnerability.
However, the good news is that there are no reports of installation of malware claims.
How to “Password Protect” yourself from what might happen or something similar that may happen again.
In this day and age, with the increasing breakthrough in technological advancements and IT, we as users need complex and unique passwords that will determine how difficult they are to crack and gain easy access to. Passwords act like keys or codes to your safe and it doesn’t matter how strong the walls of your safe are if the code or lock on the door can be easily picked or guessed. If you have fallen victim to a security system that has been cracked or breached before, then there are some very basic guidelines that you must learn in order to make sure that you don’t experience something similar in the future.
First and foremost, you must never use a password that makes use of sensitive or public information related to you. Information like your “Name”, “Address”, “Company” etc must never be used in password fields as this is the first thing that hackers will use to gain access to your systems.
Similar passwords must not be used in all places. You must think that keeping similar passwords for the safe keeping of all your precious information is an easy way out instead of putting yourself in a position of hectically remembering too many passwords that you won’t be able to keep track of. However, this is certainly not true. LinkedIn just recently got hacked through the similar password trick which ultimately turned out to be a breach of 117 million passwords! There are special programs out there created specifically for you so you can save all your passwords on one platform in one simple go and then even gain easy access to them through one master password. I, personally recommend you the Less Pass (they have a free and paid version both) for easy password safekeeping!
Never save any password in your browser that other guests on the same computer might be able to gain access to.
Switch on two-step verification, especially on your email. With turning this on, you add an extra layer of security to your account. This way you normally sign in the first time with your password and the second time, with a secret code sent to your phone. Google search makes this extremely easy with finding you the perfect app to do this!
It is recommended that your password must have both lower and uppercase letters, numbers and symbols.
Set your computer to automatic lock after a certain amount of time has passed. This then requires you to type in a password every time you log back in.
Install a good antivirus and anti-malware on your computer.
Install all Windows releases timely and weekly and keep your Operating System up to date.
Experiment with your creativity and come up with crazy answers for your security questions! If the Bank of America asks, “What was the name of your first boyfriend/girlfriend?”, type in your favorite dog breed in reply. This should be done this way so people cannot figure out such information related to you with a simple Google search.
The ultimate quest for keeping your security system safe and in check is by even assigning your personal computer a password every time you have to log in.
You must not leave out any possibilities of keeping your computer password protected or properly secured as not doing so could incur you great loss at the cost of everything you have struggled for so far.