Mark Shaw: How to stay safe from cyber criminals
Nowadays you can use the internet in countless ways on a multitude of devices. From internet banking to cloud storage, and smart appliances to smart phones, we can't get enough of the web.
But the many positives do come with negatives. Malware, which tellingly comes from the merging of words 'malicious' and 'software', is growing increasingly sophisticated and is crippling to computer users. Particularly dangerous is 'ransomware', which as you can guess, holds you ransom for money over your personal data and files. The recent June attack of the Petya ransomware affected Danish shipping giant Maersk, and made its way to New Zealand disrupting operations in the Ports of Auckland and Tauranga.
In one of the largest ransomware attacks the globe has seen, the WannaCry attack in mid-May, organisations across the globe were caught out including the UK's National Health System, Germany's National Railway, Russia's Interior Ministry and companies such as FedEx and Renault.
Here's some facts:
1 in every 219 emails in New Zealand harbours a malware attack
The average ransom demand hitting consumers globally increased dramatically in 2016 from US$294 to US$1,077 – that's close to $1,500 NZ Dollars!
Ransomware attacks globally grew 36 percent in 2016
What can you do? Here are some good practices to keep you safe in the cyber world:
- Email caution: Be aware of the dangers posed by spearphishing emails – where scammers pretend to be a business or person you know. Exercise caution around emails from unfamiliar sources and opening attachments that haven't been solicited.
- Educate: Be aware of the threat posed by ransomware and make building defences an ongoing priority. It's important to educate family, friends and employees about ransomware and encourage them to adopt best practices.
- Security policy: NZ has a lot of small businesses which need policies around data and internet security – just as you would require employees to lock the door and set the alarms at night. Use professionals to help implement a security policy that protects sensitive data at rest and in transit. Ensure that customer data is encrypted as well.
- Strong passwords: Important passwords, such as those with high privileges, should be at least 8-10 characters long (and preferably longer) and include a mixture of letters and numbers. Try to avoid reusing the same passwords on multiple websites – use a password manager, like Norton Identity Safe, to help.
- Stay up to date: Keep updating your operating system and software. Updates will frequently include patches for newly discovered security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.
- Use reputable software: Use known brands, and buy direct or from trustworthy vendors. Avoid pirated or free software which is more likely to contain spyware and offer weaker protection.
Mark Shaw is a Norton Security Expert at Symantec Pacific region.
- Sunday Star Times