It seems to be impossible to read – or watch – the News these days without coming across some major new cyber-security warning urging you to take action now to protect your computer, or your data, or your money, or your identity, or something else, from imminent threat of theft, or worse.
Now the problem is – the more you see these articles the more you just ignore them!
This is because the threat is often described in technical language and it’s not clear what you are actually being asked to do or, you didn’t do anything the last time and nothing bad happened, so the conclusion is, the ‘authorities’ are just crying wolf again and so, you can just ignore it all.
Well, this week’s ‘wolf-crying’ came on Monday when the FBI and the UK’s NCA (National Crime Agency) made a joint announcement about their penetration and partial takedown of a criminal computer network known as the ‘GameOver Zeus’ botnet. Now while the FBI presented this as, undoubtedly good news, in the continuing fight against cybercrime, the NCA presented it as an ongoing threat and urged us all to take action now to protect ourselves before the criminals can get their act together and re-group as they undoubtedly will.
But then came the poor bit. What action were we being asked to take? Well, we should all run antivirus software and keep it up-to-date, of course. And we should never open email attachments from strangers. And we should never click on ‘unsafe’ links on dodgy websites. OK, OK you get the message. The problem is there was all this fuss on the television news that had clients ringing me up asking what they should do and the official advice was pretty much – keep running the antivirus software – keep taking the medicine. Nothing specific – just a list of all the things we should all be doing anyway!
Someone even asked, “When are all these scares going to stop?” to which the man from the FBI said, quite rightly, “It isn’t. Get used to it. This is the new normal!”
So, the threats will continue and if you continue to ignore them you will probably survive – for a while. But, I can’t help thinking, if you don’t follow safe practices and take steps to educate yourself about what exactly these are, you will get hit one day and the consequences could be very bad indeed.
If we take this recent scare , for example, there are just a few points I’d like to make before you forget all about it and get on with your life.
Firstly, there were two nasty components in this threat. The first was to do with the theft of online banking credentials which is potentially worrying, but the second was, to me, considerably worse. This second component was about the downloading of a piece of software known as ‘Cryptolocker’. Now this software is nasty! A Cryptolocker attack can securely encrypt all your personal files and then present you with a ‘ransom’ demand to have them unencrypted. Now, believe me, once your files have been encrypted you will not get them back, whether you pay the ransom or not – forget it – they’re gone!
So, as always, the only sensible action is to make sure you have everything important to you securely backed up and kept somewhere safe. You know this makes sense.