The UK's a cyber attack target: Here's how to prepare

Sarah Dunsby

Source: @Photoshot

Take a look below

The prospect of large-scale cyber attacks continually hits the front pages nowadays, and reports suggest that organisations in London are a prime target for hackers. However, it’s not just about going after key infrastructure targets and big-name companies. Modern cybercriminals and even state-sponsored hackers also see the value in targeting smaller concerns and even seek to break into devices in individual homes

There are two key reasons why domestic and small business IT equipment is a worthy target for hackers. First off, it’s an easy target, as usually this equipment is maintained by laymen rather than IT specialists. As a result, devices are often left unpatched and with default passwords in place. Secondly, cybercriminals can link up hundreds (or even thousands) of these devices to form a botnet that can then be used to launch “showstopper” cyber attacks against far more high profile targets.

This article discusses some ways to protect yourself and your business from the prospect of being caught up in a cyber attack, and is aimed at regular people! Note that there are plenty of jobs where those IT specialists are still required, of course. If you’re trying to configure a firewall, or set up fail-over systems using a load balancer, for example, you’ll probably need the help of someone suitably experienced. Such systems are invaluable to web-based business, where performance and availability are crucial. 

However, there’s still plenty you can do to protect your business, even if you’re not particularly technical. Take a look below.

Change passwords

As mentioned above, small business and consumer IT equipment is often an easy target for hackers, because people neglect to take simple steps such as changing default passwords. Broadband routers are a prime example - often set up once and forgotten about. However, these devices sit right online just waiting to be hacked. Ensuring such devices have unique and complex passwords is a really easy step to take to prevent hackers using them as part of their attacks.

Be wary of Internet of Things (IoT) devices

Similarly, Internet of Things (IoT) devices are often “low hanging fruit” for cybercriminals for a similar reason. We’re talking about things like home automation devices and security cameras that are accessible via apps or a web browser.

Often, these too are set up and forgotten about and - just like routers - left with their original passwords in place. All hackers have to do is find them online and take them over. This doesn’t mean you have to stop using them, but it does mean you should ensure their configuration is correct and their password is changed from the default.

Beware of social engineering

Over two-thirds of hacks involve social engineering nowadays, with hackers continually sending out millions of phishing emails, setting up fake website login pages, and even making phone calls trying to trick people into parting with personal details. As well as being aware of the reality of this threat, companies need to make sure staff are too.  

Keep systems updated

Tech firms, from the smallest software companies to the Apples and Intels of this world, all release a steady stream of software updates. These are often released specifically to patch newly-found security vulnerabilities. 

As tempting though it is to continually “snooze” requests to update your applications, computers and mobile devices, it’s a really bad idea. Hackers quickly find out about these vulnerabilities and look for unpatched machines to take advantage of. Updating quickly and regularly keeps you safer.   

Backup your data

Backing up data won’t protect you from cybercriminals, but it will give you more of a chance to recover if they manage to compromise one of your computers. For example, if you’re ever hit by ransomware, there’s no need to pay to get data back if you know you have a reliable backup sitting there that you can restore. 

Hackers refine their levels of sophistication all the time, so keeping ahead of them is a constant battle. However, taking care of these basics at least means you’re not making life too easy for them. 

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