How to avoid getting hacked
There’s been a lot of news in the media recently about the high-profile computer hacking group Anonymous. While it’s been responsible for hacking a number of important websites, including the Vatican, Interpol, the FBI and the US Department of Justice, it’s recently had the spotlight on it following its attacks on the Home Office website. According to the group’s Twitter account, the attack was in retaliation for the Government’s plans to monitor social media and internet activity.
While the threat of this kind of attack is relatively small for most businesses, the damage caused by any kind of successful hack can be catastrophic. There are many different hackers out there, choosing to illegally break into a business’ network for a number of reasons. Sometimes they just relish the challenge. More often than not, hackers have malicious intent, either looking to gain access to sensitive data and computer systems for financial gain, or simply in order to cause digital vandalism.
There’s a multitude of ways that hackers can gain access to a business’ network, and more often than not these vulnerabilities result from human error in one way or another. One of simplest ways to hack a system is to guess a user’s password. Even if the password isn’t something simple, such as the company’s name or ‘password1’, hackers are able to try thousands of passwords in the space of an hour. If the password is short and only contains lower case letters, then it won’t take long to guess. Have a look at this guide for upgrading your passwords.
Another common hacking method is to exploit software vulnerabilities. These are essentially errors in software code that act as a kind of back door into a system. They’re one of the main reasons that software needs updating so often as new vulnerabilities and software bugs are found. Depending on the type of vulnerability, hackers can do many different things, such as gain access to a network and all of its data, install software to monitor internal communications, or allow viruses to wreak havoc on the system.
Viruses are another way in which computers can be hacked. ‘Trojan Horses’ are a type of virus that exploit software vulnerabilities to control a computer, providing a third party with complete and unauthorised access to that machine. With that access, the hacker can steal sensitive data from the machine, use it as part of ‘botnet’ to carry out attacks on other machines, or even steal money from the user’s bank account. Other computer viruses are less complex, and will simply try to infect as many machines as possible, deleting data and causing errors in infected computers.
Of course, the harder a system is to hack into, the less likely a criminal hacker will make a concerted effort to break into it. There will always be a softer target out there, saving the hacker valuable time and effort. While educating your staff on the dangers of weak passwords and viruses is one way around the problem, hardware and software solutions can also make a world of difference. Physical Firewalls can be installed into a local area network, scanning the data that’s going to and from the network to ensure that it doesn’t contain viruses or sensitive data. The great thing about firewalls is that once installed they sit quietly on the network without intruding on the day to day operations of your business. Anti-virus software for each machine is also useful, as it means that viruses resulting from user actions, such as accidentally clicking on a link to a virus, can be stopped before they are downloaded to the system. With just a couple of changes, it’s easy to safeguard your system.
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