The world has been digitized to a great extent, and that reality isn’t going to change anytime soon. If anything, the trends will continue going in this direction. Rather than attempt to fight those currents of change, it makes a lot more sense to adapt to the new reality and learn how to survive within your environment. This is the approach that has allowed nature to engineer untold billions of successful survivors, and it can be applied to cybersecurity as well. Let’s discuss how you can survive in the new decade as cybersecurity risks loom larger than ever.
Everyone Needs Anonymity
In the past, most internet users did not need to think about their anonymity. In fact, some people would look at you with suspicion if you were concerned with your privacy. Back then, the average person’s chances of getting hacked were relatively low. Today, however, they are astronomically higher.
For that reason, things like VPNs, cryptocurrencies, and secure file shredders are no longer on the fringe. Any information that a hacker can glean about your identity can potentially be used to impersonate that identity. As such, everyone now needs to take steps to ensure their anonymity at all times.
Remove All Metadata From Your Pictures
Whenever you take a picture with any sort of digital camera, certain data is attached to that image file. This is what tells your phone how to categorize that particular picture in terms of where it was taken, when it was taken, etc. Although this can be handy for organizational purposes, hackers can use it to pinpoint your physical location. At the very least, they can pinpoint the location at which a photo was taken.
Thankfully, it is easy to remove this data. Use either Photoshop or GIMP (a free utility that functions much like photoshop) to open the photo you want to clean. Then, go to the “file” menu and look for the “export” option. Export the file, using the same name so as to overwrite the old one. Before you export, you should be given an option to remove EXIF data (and possibly other metadata as well). Note that this is less likely to work with GIF files. However, PNG files can do pretty much all of the same things.
Use a VPN Service
VPN services work by creating an encrypted tunnel between you and the internet. That encrypted data makes up the “walls” of the tunnel, and it is very, very hard for anyone (even the most skillful of hackers) to break through them. Their only realistic way to get through this is to trick you into giving up your login information (more on that in the next section).
VPN services do not require any sort of technical skills for basic use. You can just turn it on and off as needed, changing locations if you deem it necessary to do so. The average person shouldn’t have to do any more than that, and that’s why VPN services have become so popular. Most of them aren’t too expensive, either. On the downside, you still have to trust your VPN provider because they are routing all your traffic. As such, large organizations might want to set up their own VPN server using OpenVPN or something similar.
Always Be Wary Of Social Engineering Hacks
Social engineering attacks have become the number one way for hackers to get that initial “foot in the door.” This is because they do not require a high level of technical expertise in order to be successful. Rather, they rely on a person’s ability to lie and deceive, and many criminals around the world are good at that.
Social engineering attacks will nearly always start with an impersonation. A hacker will assume a fake identity (usually through email) and will try to direct you to a fake landing page. This page will be rigged with a script that captures all your keystrokes. Thus, when you enter your login information into this dummy page (thinking it to be something legitimate like your employer’s website), it is captured and compromised.
The above is the most common method, but it is by no means the only method. Another common social engineering hack is the use of fake identities to trick people into downloading malware. For instance, we have seen pop-ups that direct the user to install “Adobe Photoshop For Free.” On close inspection, their URLs did not match with anything owned by Adobe. Thus, it was obviously an attempt to trick people into downloading malware. As part of the installation process, you will have to authorize the program to make changes to your computer. Once you’ve done that, it’s game over.
Be Careful About Mobile Devices, IoT Devices, And Gaming Consoles
When people think of cybersecurity, they usually think of computer security. However, a PC (whether desktop or laptop) doesn’t usually represent the weakest point of a network.
Most PCs are not fully secure “out of the box,” but all of them can be made so. We can’t say the same about mobile devices, smart devices, and gaming consoles. All of these things access the internet and none of them are optimized for security. Worse, it is a lot harder to secure these devices. Why? Because, unlike the PC, they were not designed with security as a high priority.
If there is one common theme here, it would have to be wariness. The online world has become like a jungle: Teeming with fruit and resources, but also with dangerous predators. Thankfully, we have a lot more resources for our protection than our wild ancestors. By understanding the predators and how they hunt, you can help yourself to avoid being the prey. At PCH Technologies, we want to help all of our customers to gather their virtual jungle fruit without fear. If you need some help in this department, you can always call us at (856) 754-7500.