The increasing incidence of global cyber-attacks, with Trojans, worms, malware, adware, and ransomware continues to affect Britons on a mass scale. Consider that in May 2017, Scotland Yard reported that some 200,000 people across 150 countries were affected by cyber criminals. The most heavily impacted government organization of them all was the National Health Services (NHS).
Scotland was hit particularly hard, with the ambulance service and a dozen health boards affected by cybercrime. Internet security threats are rising, and it is incumbent upon individuals to guard against these new age threats. By June 2017, financial enterprises were struck by another wave of ransomware as hackers targeted users computers in one of the most daring and exploitative cyberattacks.
Effective Ways to Protect Sensitive Information
For home users, the good news is that the most recent waves of cyberattacks have been targeting government-run organizations and corporate enterprises. However, the recent threats can wreak havoc on the hardware and software of personal computers, and cause vulnerabilities in personal security protocols.
Police Scotland recently provided tips for maintaining the integrity of your computer system, with information posted on the National Cyber Security Centre website. Under no conditions are users encouraged to pay the ransom (currently $300 in BTC) to the hackers, as this serves only to embolden them further. There are no guarantees that any corrupted files or stolen files will be returned once the ransom has been paid.
Ransomware is harmful computer code designed to lock your computer until you pay the ransom. The £230 ransom ($300 equivalent) being demanded by hackers utilises cryptocurrency blockchain technology to hide behind a veil of relative anonymity. Infected computers are rendered inoperable by the malware, which either blocks the users’ access to the files and folders entirely, or limits access to only a select amount of computer information.
The hackers’ modus operandi is to demand a ransom, or otherwise threaten to prevent any of the files from being used or recovered. The WannaCry malware program that infected thousands of computers recently was accompanied by a warning message: Users had only 7 days to pay the ransom or risk losing their personal files and folders.
Tips for Guarding Against Malicious Threats
Computers are inherently vulnerable when they are connected to a network, or the Internet. Any time you open a file, folder, email, or message, you run the risk of opening a Pandora’s box. It is imperative that a sophisticated, effective, and up-to-date antivirus program is up and running to block malicious code from infecting your files and folders. Additionally, it is important to maintain the integrity of your personal files and information at all times.
This includes things like your ID, tax ID, credit card information, banking data, etc. Fortunately, credit cards are safer than debit cards when it comes to fraud. For starters, any money that is stolen from most major credit cards is fully reimbursable by the credit card company. In the event of fraud, even credit card rewards are also protected against theft. Provided you dispute the fraudulent activity, you will likely enjoy the full benefits of cancelled charges and refunded money (if any is stolen). Your credit card company will also issue you brand-new cards within several business days.
There are many other ways to protect yourself against online threats, including frequent backups of your files and folders online, or to an external hard drive. You may wish to consider using biometric hard drives, and 2-factor authentication to login to personal accounts. This will protect you from prying eyes. It is always a good idea to keep your personal, sensitive data backed up on the cloud, or on an external hard drive that will not be infected by malware.
Whenever you click on emails, take heed: a click could open the door to a cyberattack. This is especially true of attachments or hyperlinks, from senders that you do not recognize. If you navigate to a URL, be sure that it is the correct URL and not a misspelled URL. And at all times, desist from providing personal information in unsolicited emails. The tax authorities, your bank, or any other government agency will not request sensitive information over the phone, or via email. If you are uncertain always contact these agencies directly.