JUSTIN MURRAY, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF ITQ QATAR, DISCUSSES WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING SAFE ONLINE.
INTERNET OF THINGS
SO YOU MAY HAVE HEARD THE PHRASE “INTERNET OF THINGS” AND YOU WILL BE ASKING YOURSELF, “WHAT IS IT?” AND, “WHY SHOULD I CARE?”
What is it?
Quite simply It’s everything connected to the internet– in the world today more and more devices are being hooked up to the Internet – your computer, your phone, your TV, your baby camera – even your fridge! Your home will soon know more about you than your closest friend.
Why should I care?
The interconnected world exposes us to even more risks online. Your banking details, your emails and even your secrets are all there for the taking by malicious people. They can even use your devices to hack banks!
• Yahoo admitted that 500 million accounts details have been stolen
• Ashley Madison Online dating site: 32 million users email and private details released.
• Tesco Bank (UK) : 40 000 bank customers details stolen and already has had to refund £2.5 million in monies stolen from users
• Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerman has been hacked on Twitter and Pinterest
If even the worlds social media master can be hacked what hope do we have? According to various sources Mark made a simple mistake – reusing passwords on many sites – something we all do but shouldn’t. So what can you do to keep safe online?
Your devices – Phones, tablets and more
The absolute first thing you need to do is keep your devices safe. When we build websites for new clients, or develop new social media campaigns we always look at security first and this is something you should always consider too. This means that you should update your security when available and watch out for the warning signs that your device is infected.
PC users are normally pretty good about having security on their PC’s – but Mac users can be complacent! At ITQ we see a number of infected Macs a month – Macs are not invulnerable.
I recommend that you install a paid for security that has both Antivirus and Firewall. We have a number of softwares that we recommend to our clients but there are many others. As a bonus, many of them have versions available for your phone and tablet as part of the purchase.
Remember that security is never 100 per cent; no matter what security you have installed so always look out for the warning signs of infection.
Other things to be aware of:
Ransomware – It’s nasty. At ITQ, we see at least five Ransomware infections a month. Ransomware encrypts all your files and then demands a ransom to be paid to unlock it but there is no guarantee that if you pay the ransom you will get your files back! If your files suddenly start changing to weird names you may be infected.
Make Backups – Make sure you have a backup of all your pictures, documents and treasured memories. Make sure they are either stored online in a cloud system or at the very least on an external hard-drive. We have often had to try recover these and sometimes it ends in heartbreak.
Always check what permission an App asks for when installing it on your phone. Ask yourself ‘’does it really need all those permissions?” When in doubt, don’t install it.
• Keep your system up to date – from a Mac to a PC, from android to IOS and beyond
• Install Antivirus and Firewall – even Macs need it
• Don’t forget to install security on your phone
• Don’t ignore strange happenings on your device – check them immediately
• Pay attention to permissions Apps ask for before you install them
• Never open strange links
• USB’s – Don’t trust them, always scan them with anti-virus before using and sharing
• Don’t use illegal downloads, Torrents etc, they are notoriously riddled with viruses
You should change the default passwords on all your devices – hackers can take control of your baby monitor, your internet router and much more. They can then use them to either get your personal information or even launch attacks from your device on banks and websites.
Update your device anti-virus when it’s available – this includes your smart TV! The manufacturers regularly release updated software to add new features and close any security holes.
Your online account – keep them safe
With the advent of online shopping and banking keeping your online accounts secure has become critical. You should never use the same passwords on different websites because if that site is hacked then other accounts are at risk – this is what allegedly happened with Mark Zuckerberg’s account. If you have too many passwords to remember, then consider a Password Manager programme.
Another major problem is using bad passwords – 123456, admin, password and similar – these just expose you to risk. We recommend that you should have a password at least 8 characters long that is a mixture of capital and small letters, numbers and special characters, but also something that you will remember, for example Sun74332Shine! would be a good one it’s not too complicated to use and fairly easy to remember.
If available, always enable two factor authentication, many sites now offer this. It means that when you log in a text or email is sent to you to confirm it is you logging in – this is a great way to protect yourself.
If you receive an email supposedly from your bank, PayPal, or other account asking you to re-enter your details, don’t trust it and don’t click on the links in the email. Instead open your browser and go to the online site directly.
It doesn’t just happen online. We often have reports of someone phoning you or texting you saying there is a problem with your computer or bank account and they want to help you fix it. They then either direct you to a website to fill on your details or ask you for them over the phone. If this happens, hang-up and call your bank directly to check. Don’t use the phone numbers they give you and make sure the call is finished before calling. When in doubt never give any details over the phone and never download anything from a site you are directed to.
Tips to keep your online accounts safe
• Use strong passwords
• Be careful of emails requesting account details
• Enable Two Factor Authentication if available
• Watch out for strange phone calls asking you for account details
Social Media – your life online
As an Administrator on ‘When, Where and How in Doha’ Facebook Group we often get asked about keeping your social media profile secure. The simple rule for social media is never ever put anything online that you would be embarrassed about if it is viewed publicly – and that goes for emails too. Sometimes people trying to hack you will use your social media profiles to get information about you that can be used, i.e. town of birth, date of birth, your pets, your children’s names and even your pictures can be used. Often your security questions answers can be found on your social media profile.
• Always check your privacy settings and restrict them to your friends only. In addition, in Facebook you can set trusted friends or family members that can help you recover your account if it is hacked.
• Never blindly accept friend requests, make sure you know who can see your profile before accepting them.
• Check which apps have permission to post on your behalf- otherwise your friends may see you liking pages that you haven’t liked – and it may be an App doing it.
• Remember that when you are applying for a job, many employees now check your social media presence so make sure you limit external access to safe guard your work prospects.
Skype is often missed in under social media umbrella but is worth being carful on Skype too. There have been several recent cases of people contacting on Skype and then recording video chats with them. If there is anything embarrassing on the video they will threaten to upload it to all your friends and families unless you pay them not to. I personally had to help someone with this exact case – and it was not easy to deal with – it ended up with having to get the authorities in several different countries involved.
Top Tips for Social Media
• Use strong passwords – notice the top tip for everything
• Check your privacy settings
• Don’t just accept friend or contact requests – make sure they are genuine
• Set up Recovery person on Facebook – friends or family in case you do get hacked
• Facebook Apps – check what permissions they have
It’s not all doom!
Whilst it seems that it’s a minefield keeping safe online with a few simple rules you can enjoy the advantages of the internet and protect yourself. The Internet is a wonderful tool for both good and bad in the same way many technologies are. Driving a car is fraught with danger but obeying the rules and taking advantages of the safety features you do it every day.
It is the same with using the Internet – keep yourself safe and take advantage of the Information age