Passwords are strings of characters used to access online services (e.g. your email or social networks profile). However they also help to prevent other people from accessing your personal accounts. Unfortunately, because we use so many services, it is difficult to remember each password that we have.
In this situation, what could be a good strategy?
I still prefer to use a different password each time. Having different passwords for each service is the correct strategy for securing one’s own accounts. Furthermore, it is important to have strong passwords composed of lower and upper case letters which include numbers and alphanumeric characters.
The other day while opening the email, you got an interesting but suspicious message from a company. The message said that “you’ve won the lottery” and the company was asking you specific personal and banking details so that they could lodge a large sum of money in your bank account.
These emails are a common type of cyber-attack that goes by the name of…..
Phishing. With Phishing an attacker collects user credentials (such as passwords and credit card numbers) by means of fake apps, fake SMS or email messages that seem genuine.
How many times a week do you read an article on cyber security and hacking? Although both are popular buzzwords they are also of paramount importance in our daily life at work or during our spare time. 'Hacker', in particular, is one of the words that currently seem to be connected with crime over the Internet in several ways, but its meaning also depends on the context in which it is used and the view point.
Generally, who are hackers?
Hackers could be both benign and criminal programmers. This is correct since hackers could be both benign and malicious. In fact, hacking is what hackers do with the high skills and knowledge they possess. However, the term can have different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. The definition depends often on the context and the activities that are being conducted. The common distinction is between ‘black hat hackers’ (malicious) and ‘white hat hackers’ (benign), or between ‘hacking for good’ and ‘hacking for bad’. A discussion is available in this ENISA report: https://www.enisa.europa.eu/activities/stakeholder-relations/nis-brokerage-1/brokerage-model-for-network-and-information-security-in-education.
The other day you were listening to the evening news while preparing your dinner at home. On the TV show the journalist was interviewing a computer industry expert talking about the importance of updating and patching computer operating systems for security reasons. However you were distracted by cooking and could not understand why he was insisting on that.
When thinking about it the day after, you think that patching the operating system…
Fixes problems and makes the operating system more secure. Patching the operating system is usually a way to fix bugs and security problems for your computer. Keeping your operating system updated is a good strategy that helps to secure your computer, and your data.
Malware is software that has a malicious intent to harm users and their devices. A relevant protection in these cases is to have an antivirus software installed. However, even this is not sufficient as the antivirus needs to be constantly updated.
What is your perspective about the need for updating the antivirus?
The antivirus update protects my computer from newly created malware. Antivirus updates do offer you the latest protection against new forms of malware. This would normally include ‘signature files’ of new malware: small portions of code that identify malware.
On your personal laptop you have been using some of the same computer programs for years. One of your friends, which is an expert in security, noticed that one of your programs has long been discontinued by the manufacturer. Your friend told you that this old and discontinued software exposes your computer to serious security threats due to integrity problems.
Among these threats your friend mentioned…..
Malicious Software. This is the correct answer indeed. Using discontinued software implies exposure to a number of risks such as malware due to the software lacking updates. See for more information and additional threats coming from the use of discontinued software a recent ENISA recommendation: Users should make sure that they are aware and understand the security risk they are exposing themselves to by continuing to use obsolete software http://www.enisa.europa.eu/activities/stakeholder-relations/nis-brokerage-1/european-cyber-security-month-advocacy-campaign/2014/ecsm-recommendations-for-all-en
You are a ‘very heavy’ user of mobile apps. You have apps that are being used by your kids for playing and learning. You have apps that you use in your leisure time for staying informed about what happens in your city. You have apps that you use to keep in touch with your friends. Whenever you see an interesting app you want it and your instinct is just to download and install it.
However for ensuring your safety and security it is best to…
Check that the app comes from a reputable source. Before installing or using new smartphone apps or services, it is important to check their reputation. Never install any software onto the device unless it is from a trusted source and you were expecting to receive it. Also, make sure that if the app is cost-free, you understand which personal data it uses and make sure that you agree with this.
These days in the media it is not uncommon to hear that organisations and companies have suffered from cyber-attacks. The popular image is that these attacks are carried out by so-called malicious hackers that are external to an organisation. However several observations show that many of these attacks are carried out by organisation employees/officers or former employees.
What is the common name which is given to this type of threat?
This is the correct answer indeed. While it is often common to think that cyber-attacks come from external sources, in fact it is also common that attacks come from the inside. The correct answer is Insider Threat. While it is common to think that cyber-attacks come from external sources, often attacks come from the inside. The insider threat – for example an employee - might obtain access to the computer systems or networks of an organisation, and then conduct harmful or criminal activities against the organisation. However a significant amount of insider threats stem from unintentional user errors/mistakes.
For more information about the insider threat and the current level of risk this has you can consult the ENISA Threat Landscape Report, and in particular the section 3.1.1, available here: https://www.enisa.europa.eu/activities/risk-management/evolving-threat-environment/enisa-threat-landscape/enisa-threat-landscape-2014
You have noticed that your computer is acting erratically and normal tasks (e.g., open a document/application), are taking a little bit longer to perform. So you called a friend of yours who is a computer technician and always helps you when your computer has problems. After a careful inspection he told you that your computer has been infected by a ‘Trojan Horse’.
You wonder what a ‘Trojan Horse’ could be?
It is a malicious software that allows other programs to control your computer.
A Trojan horse is an autonomous program that appears to be doing what the user wants, but is actually doing something else. This unwanted, hidden, additional function could allow other programs to control your computer as is the case with the AIDS Trojan that encrypted the user’s data after a number of reboots, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIDS_(Trojan_horse).
One day when looking at your inbox, you find you have received an email from a friend you have not heard from for at least two years. When you open the email the text says ‘Please click here http://shorturl.jhdsuyc.com, there is surprise for you’.
What would you do in such scenario?
You call your friend before doing anything with the e-mail.
This is probably the best strategy. You have not heard from this friend in a while, and this looks very much like a phishing attempt with someone hacking your friend’s e-mail account and using it to exploit the existing trust between you and your friend. The link might easily be hiding malware. Calling her will not only help you avoid the phishing but also alert her about the possible hacking of the e-mail account. Furthermore this will alert your friend about the potential for more phishing attempts using her email address.