Fifteen ways to stay safe on the Internet
This week’s 60 Minutes broadcast included a segment entitled The Great Brain Robbery that described how a tech company lost millions of dollars – and nearly went belly up – due to a hack by the Chinese government. The malware was delivered via a trusted source: a high-ranking employee accepted bribes from the Chinese in exchange for sending an email to the company’s executives to which a virus-laden attachment was appended.
More than one of the addressees took the bait, which opened the company’s network to the hackers. They spied and stole the company’s valuable trade secrets, ultimately using the technology in a competing product that’s still on the market. What really stung is that the U.S. government is among the Chinese cyber-crooks’ paying customers.
Government-sanctioned Internet espionage encompasses all aspects of public and private computer networks. A report released today by Cisco Systems found that 92 percent of the company’s network devices were running software with known vulnerabilities. Yet the most vulnerable software remains browsers and their many extensions. CSO’s Maria Korolov examines the report’s findings in a January 19, 2016, article.
(In a September 9, 2014, article, I described “Three free browser add-ons that protect against cybercrime,” and another article from June 24, 2014, presented “The browser security settings you gotta change.”)
As Stephen Pritchard of the Financial Times writes in a July 24, 2015, article, not only is Internet espionage targeting governments and businesses rampant, it’s also far too easy. Malware purveyors are able to exploit vulnerabilities in software and hardware that were discovered and patched long ago, but organizations simply fail to implement the fixes or replace the insecure products.
Since there’s really no such thing as a secure Internet, you may be tempted to think that your only option for staying safe is to avoid going online altogether. Doing so is both impractical and unnecessary. With time, safer ways of conducting business and government via the Internet will arrive. Think of how much safer automobile travel is these days than it was back in the 1950s. Now think of how much safer cars will be once they’re able to communicate with others nearby in real time, not to mention when the human drivers are replaced.
Only you can prevent malware infections
There’s not much we can do about companies and agencies using unsafe networks. However, most computer infections result from “social engineering”: they trick a human into taking some action that causes the malware to launch and load itself onto the victim’s network. Here are 15 ways to minimize the chances that you’ll become a cybercrime statistic.
50+ Internet Security Tips & Tricks from Top Experts
Security tips from the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team
National Cyber Security Alliance: Stay Safe Online
Ten simple, common-sense security tips (a post by yours truly from October 9, 2012)
MIT Information Systems and Technology: Top Ten Safe Computing Tips
Google Safety Center
Inc.: Ten Expert Security Tips for Using the Internet of Things
Consumer Reports: Guide to Internet Security
Kim Komando: Top 5 Privacy & Security Tips of 2015
David Lazarus, January 15, 2016, Los Angeles Times: Our privacy is losing out to Internet-connected household devices