It’s the hot topic of the decade in computing– Cyber Security. Two words that strike fear in the heart of many. There is a mystery surrounding Cyber Security. It’s all black magic and doom and gloom. Some teenager in China is going to hack into me and steal my bank account and crash my computer and blackmail me with a photo from when I was younger and had braces. They are going to encrypt all my files and charge me to get them back and then I won’t get them anyway and then I’ll have to buy a new computer. They can take control and crash a satellite on my house and hack into my car and drive me into a river! These “hackers” are going to take over the world and we can’t stop them!
So Is It Real?
Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom, and it certainly isn’t all that Hollywood would have you believe. Let’s be honest, in real life tables do not stop bullets from a machine gun, you don’t get shot and run off with gritted teeth, with cars cannot crash and roll 50 times and the driver simply climbs out coughing, cars rarely hit a telegraph pole and burst into flames, and hackers generally don’t live in a basement surviving on pizza. Surprisingly, they are also generally not a young, slim, attractive lady. We all know Hollywood lies. Hollywood exaggerates. That is what Hollywood does. It makes stuff up. Don’t believe me? OK, so you think Star Wars is real, The Fast & The Furious actually happened and we are all, therefore, stuck in The Matrix? So, Die Hard is true to life? It’s the same with Cyber Security.
Some Basic Definitions
Let’s start easy. What is Cyber Security? Well, it encompasses all the technologies and practices to protect a network, device, data or program from attack and damage. It’s pretty much that simple. We can make it more complicated, but, all Cyber Security is, is keeping digital stuff safe.
Right, now we have that bit down, let’s go in a bit further. What’s a virus, worm, trojan, ransomware and malware? Are they different? What do they do? Do I need to be worried?
- Virus – a piece of code which can copy itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data
- Worm – a type of malicious software program whose primary function is to infect other computers while remaining active on infected systems
- Trojan Horse – A destructive program that masquerades as a benign application. Unlike viruses, Trojan horses do not replicate themselves
- Ransomware – a program that holds the user to ransom in some way. It may encrypt files making them unavailable to the user until a “ransom” has been paid. After the payment, it is not unusual to still not get your files back.
- Malware – an all-encompassing term for all the above.
All the above work slightly differently as you can see, as they are all different, so, to be fair, one size does not fit all.
So, What Do I Do?
So, how do we protect ourselves? Actually, it’s really easy. First off, if you have Windows it comes with a free Anti-Virus installed and running – Mac OSX doesn’t. Already that’s better than nothing. If you run through a patch of nettles with nothing on, you are going to get stung. Put on a pair of trousers (or pants depending on where you live) and you reduce your chances of getting stung. Put on some denim jeans and the risk is reduced further. Put on a full armour suit and the risk is reduced even more. If you have no AV you are running naked. Free software is readily available (most of it better than Windows, some not) and that’s the trouser/pants solution. Want denim jeans protection? Buy a good AV solution and you are there. Full armour? Buy a full Anti Malware Suite.
But which are the good free ones and paid ones and better ones? I know it’s hard to tell if you are not in the computer world but there are easy ways to find out. You can Google (or Bing if you like or any other search engine) “Best free antivirus” and have a look at somewhere like TechRadar. They keep up with all these sorts of things. If I tell you right now that AVG is the best free one, tomorrow it could be someone else. Do a little reading and see what the best solution is today – because that’s all we can do.
I Have A Mac, So I am OK, right?
Do I need an AV if I have a Mac? Let me put it this way, if you are an advanced Mac user with knowledge of how they work etc., then probably not. If not, get an Av for your Mac. It’s like taking an umbrella with you when it looks like it might rain – better safe than sorry.
“Hi, it’s George from Microsoft…”
Secondly, there are a few other things to be aware of to keep you secure. If you get an email from an African Prince trying to give you money, don’t open it, and if you do, delete it. It’s not real. Microsoft will not call you to tell you there is a problem with your Windows, it’s a scam. The Inland Revenue or IRS or whatever you have in your country, will not email you saying you are due a refund, simply confirm your details. It’s a scam. Your ISP will not call you to tell you that there is a problem with your internet speed, and they have traced it to your computer.
No one is going to give you money. No one is going to email or call you and ask for personal details. No one will ever randomly email or call you and tell you that you are the lucky winner of that new phone that’s just come on the market. I know we like free stuff as a race of people, but come on, just think for a second. Help yourself. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. If someone wants to remotely access your computer out of the blue to fix something you didn’t know was broken, just think. Tell them you are a computing student and if they tell you what’s wrong and you will fix it – £50 says they hang up fast.
If it looks like a scam, walks like a scam and talks like a scam, it’s probably not the widow of an Indian banker trying to disperse several million US Dollars, and she just happens to have heard you are a nice person.