by Cathy Dellosa-Ng as originally posted at the Philippine Online Chronicles
No one is safe.
In this world we live in today, everything can be hacked. The rise of Information Technology has brought our day-to-day activities online, and while it’s convenient to have access to our basic necessities on the World Wide Web, it’s just as easy for them to get compromised. Everything from our personal finances right down to our own identities—all these can be lost with just a simple click. That is the true power of a hacker.
What are the negative effects of hacking?
Not all hackers are bad guys. The ethical hackers known as “white hat hackers” are actually using their skills for the good of mankind by working within a company and finding network flaws so that the company can better improve their systems. In fact, the Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), according to their website, is a computer security agency that employs these security experts to “support clients in Europe, North America, Australia, Africa and Asia. Services include consulting, architecture and integration, evaluation and assessment, deployment and operations, and training. The deployment of ethical hackers to test the vulnerability of computer networks is one of the many ways CSC can help clients deal with ongoing security threats.”
There are also a number of “hacktivists” who spread their ideologies by hacking. Sadly, we just can’t be as naïve as to think that hackers are all like that typical scrawny kid with glasses in an action movie who always helps save the day by hacking into evil institutions to help the good guys break in and defeat the Big Bad Boss. The word “hacker” has long been stained by malicious hackers who want nothing but to cause you harm. Using their tech-savvy selves as a destructive tool, hackers can gain access to your email accounts, financial details, credit systems, and basically everything you post about yourself on social media. Once they hack into your email, they can steal valuable information from you as well as private files and correspondence about your whole life. They can also use sensitive data about bank details to transfer funds and do whatever they want with your hard-earned cash.
Identity theft is also one of the most common and devastating effects of hacking. Because of the dawn of social media, it’s now easier than ever for hackers to access your accounts online and steal your whole identity. Photos, videos, personal messages, browsing history, and even purchase information when shopping online—all these are vulnerable to hackers’ attacks because accessibility of information is right there at their fingertips. If they really want to hack you, they can and they will.
How can you protect yourself from hackers?
Breach of security, loss of privacy, damaged reputations, and compromised information—it’s hard not to panic when these can happen to you. These may all sound completely mortifying, but there are ways to shield yourself against these cyber-crimes. Setting up a hack-proof home and office PC is as easy as being aware that you need protection. From antiviruses to malware blockers, you can choose among a variety of protective tools to make sure that you don’t ever experience a security breach.
Obviously, the first step is to install some good antivirus software such as Kaspersky or Norton on your computer. It’s worth shelling out a few bucks for your peace of mind. Most of these products come with 2-in-1 packages or free devices for a year or two, so you can protect both your home and your office PC, as well as your devices or laptops. These antivirus programs can block malicious content coming from suspicious websites and corrupted files on USBs, as well as keep you safe from downloadable malware and pesky pop-up spyware that can harm your computer without you even knowing. You should also always keep your firewall turned on to fend off hackers who might want to crash your computer.
The next thing you need to do is to take precautions in everything that you do. Don’t click on suspicious links on the internet, and if you’re handling sensitive bank information, only trust websites with HTTPS that add an extra layer of protection and online encryption. With your different accounts, use different passwords so that when one of them is hacked, not everything can be hacked. Use strong passwords with a good combination of alpha-numeric characters. When given the option, set up two-factor authentication for your accounts. Sites like Google use this technique to alert you when you log in from a new device, so you will have to key in your password from your phone or your computer to authenticate. You can also set up security questions just to make sure random strangers don’t get access to your accounts that easily. It’s also a good idea to regularly change your passwords, as well as update your operating systems periodically to fix bugs and security loopholes.
Now, it might be convenient to link accounts across all your devices, but this only makes it easier for a hacker to access a plethora of information about you. Once they’re in, they’re in—and there’s no going back. Keep your separate accounts separate instead, just to ensure stop gaps against hackers. Be wary of opening email attachments and accessing free Wi-Fi in shady accounts, because anything shared over public Wi-Fi—especially free Wi-Fi—can just as easily be accessed by a hacker lurking in the area. Always clear your browser history especially when using public computers—it’s almost like making sure nobody is looking over your shoulder to peek at your monitor—and don’t ever forget to log off.
When all is said and done, keeping a local backup of your most important files really helps just in case everything virtual is compromised. But your best tool is really to stay vigilant. Tread wisely online. Be careful when posting or sharing information, and keep sensitive data private. Only exchange files with those whom you really trust. Be paranoid if you need to, because after all, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.