Technology and the way we organise our lives around it is rapidly changing, and not always for the better. There has been a great deal of controversy about how social media and online data has influenced recent elections in the UK & the US as unaccountable agents have poured money into advertising and ‘fake news’, targeted undecided voters, and used data captured from unwitting citizens who’ve done nothing more than like or share a post they’ve seen.
Data is big business. It can be used to affect elections, to help decide where public money is spent, when to buy and sell assets, and it can also be used to get access to your home.
Shortly before Christmas Ring was dealing with a controversial data breach when it was shown that if customers don’t take the initiative to change their passwords and security settings it was relatively simple for people to access home cameras in order to see into children’s bedrooms and talk to the occupants. And while it’s easy for the tech savvy to scoff and wonder “well what were they expecting if they didn’t secure their devices?” it’s also equally true that most people don’t understand the ramifications of installing popular Smart devices into their homes and assume that if they’re going to be sold as security and monitoring tools there should be a certain amount of security built in.
Stay Secure Online, And On The LineFemail
It’s not only via social media that hackers and data miners attempt to steal information which they can use against you in some way. Phone scams are still prevalent and it appears little can be done to stop them if the call originates abroad. Scammers call using a system which makes it appear the call is coming from inside the UK and proceed to attempt to cheat you out of money or access your computer hoping that you’ll reveal your online banking details to them. If you’ve heard the robo-call claiming to be from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs or gone through they rigmarole of the call claiming to come from BT about people stealing your broadband you’ll wonder how they are successful. The process is so amateurish it’s almost inconceivable that anyone would fall for it, yet they persist, which tells us that at some level it must be working.
Never Assume You’re Offline
But the line between when we’re online and offline is becoming increasingly blurred. We’re feel offline when we’re sitting reading a book or watching broadcast TV but as soon as we say “Alexa…” we’re online again. These devices are always listening, waiting for us to call them into use, so while we may think we’re not communicating with the web it can hear us via our smart home devices. The notion of being offline is becoming ever more vague.
Be Random, Be Unique, Use Your Special Character
We at Briant Communications say it a lot. Use random unique passwords to secure all of your devices when you buy them. The Ponemon Institute found that more than half of us rely on about five different passwords for all of our online security. The problem is with so few passwords in use anyone who gets hold of your Netflix password for example probably has the password to many other accounts you hold. Using your children’s or pets names, replacing a number for a special character or indeed any favourites or fists is easily guessable, and there are many reasons why using factory defaults offer next to no security at all.
How secure are ‘security questions anyway? Often you’ll have to answer a question in order verify your identity or to get forgotten passwords. Unfortunately they’re either quite guessable if the person trying to gain access to your details is known to you or has access to Facebook. People are often loathe to answer silly questionnaires online as they worry that your details will be harvested, but take into account that if you have connected with your family then they will know your mother’s maiden name. It’s the same as your maternal uncle’s. So instead of doing the obvious, do something outlandish. If you’re asked for your favourite anything, think of something which you absolutely detest. If you’re asked for your place of birth (again easy enough to find online) put something outlandish. But make sure it’s memorable to you, you don’t want to secure your details so well that not even you can access them!
Change Is For The Best
It’s also important to keep abreast of the news and change passwords regularly. It wasn’t that long ago that every single one of the 3 billion extant Yahoo accounts were hacked and 500 million more again a few years later. Data such as passwords were captured was traded online. Millions of credit card payment details are traded online every day too. There are so many that they only attract a few dollars per thousand as most of them are expired. Whoever buys them accepts that as a reasonable loss as the one or two live accounts they are able to exploit will potentially make them a fortune overnight.
Be Smart About Phone Security
Smart phones are a huge risk to your security if they get lost or stolen. You can watch YouTube videos which last less than two minutes which show you exactly how to hack into an iPhone, and once a thief is in they can do what they want with your apps and gleen a great deal of data about you from your browser history. They can also use it to make contactless payments until you can get to a computer or borrow another phone to cancel the app and stop all further payments.
Not only can anyone with your phone access all your apps, they can change the passwords you have stored on each one too, so it’s generally a good idea not to save passwords on your phone, committing them to your own memory instead. If you always stay logged in or keep your passwords saved then there is nothing to stop anyone who pinches your phone from accessing your social media, all of your emails, contacts, and they can also create new accounts in your name which they can then use for whatever purpose they choose. Instead of allowing them to do that, why not choose to apply an automatic data dump instead? In the security settings you can instruct the phone to perform a factory reset if someone repeatedly tries to access your phone with the wrong code.
The Online Security Two-Step
Always use two factor authentication, but beware of the possible of lapses in certain circumstances. Two factor authentication (2FA) involves having to be in possession of both your username and password, and either have access to your own email or mobile phone as the second factor is a code which is emailed or sent via SMS. This highlights the importance of having a different password for every account and the potential lapse if you lose your phone. If someone else has your phone they could quite simply put in your sim into another phone and request resetting for all your accounts when they try to log in to your accounts. This won’t work for every provider you have an account with, but it’s not a risk which is worth taking. If you do lose your phone or it gets stolen then it’s vital that you chance all of your passwords as soon as you can.