CYBER SECURITY GUIDE
|Following our guidelines will help
protect yourself when you use your computer
Paul Grout's case of the internet
taking over his life is a rare one, but every computer user should
be aware of security. There are some simple ways to protect yourself
on the 'net and in the office, to make life much harder for the hackers.
Don't forget that Paul's situation, although awful, was
very rare and shouldn't stop you from using the internet or your work
PC. It should just make you more aware of the potential dangers.
Computer expert Gary O'Leary-Steele tells Inside Out
some ways that you can become more secure on your PC.
One of the first ways to protect yourself is by setting
passwords. As Paul Grout's case showed, being blasé about your
password can be a big mistake.
There are two things to consider when dealing with passwords.
Firstly make it tough for someone to work out. Don't use any words from
the English dictionary; instead use a combination of letters and numbers
in what appears to be a random order.
is a "white hacker" who works to combat viruses and security
Secondly, change it as often as you can.
"Changing your password as regularly as it is feasible
is the text book answer," says Gary O'Leary-Steele, but he also warns
of sharing your password.
"Never give out your password to anyone unless it
is absolutely necessary," he says. "You never know who is within
Certainly when using work computers you may be relying
on your Information Technology (IT) manager to keep you safe, but don't
assume this is always the case - take it upon yourself to keep your information
current and secure.
However, Gary warns against taking it too far. "Don't
start to install your own protection software on a work PC as this could
severely compromise the network," he says.
If you are concerned about computer security at work,
talk to your IT manager.
Staying in touch
Almost any internet user will use the technology to keep
in touch with work colleagues, family and friends.
Hacker: A highly skilled computer user who breaks
through security systems, often to gain access to personal files
White hacker: a hacker who uses his skills to thwart
the efforts of other hackers
Firewall: A barrier used to keep hackers out of
your computer system
Messenger: A chat application allowing users to
chat in 'real time'
Windows: Microsoft's operating system, which is
the most popular in the world, other systems include Macintosh,
DOS and UNIX
Chatroom: A pre-setup area where users can 'chat'
to multiple participants in real time
Encrypted: Information that has been 'scrambled'
so that it is indecipherable to outside parties
Paypal: A way of transferring money over the Internet,
whereby you set up your own 'account' to move money from
Virus: A file containing malicious code which is
capable of attaching itself to disks or other files without the
user knowing. Some viruses damage files and computer systems
Worm: A computer programme that replicates, but
unlike viruses, does not infect other computer program files. Worms
can create copies on the same computer, or can send the copies to
other computers via a network
Emails are the most common form of communication but
you should be aware of their limitations. Most emails are sent un-encrypted,
which means potentially any hacker could get hold of them.
Normal users on the internet wouldn't be able to see
other people's emails very easily but a hacker certainly could.
Gary suggests remaining aware of what content you are
sending via email. "The true answer is that if it's confidential
don't send it via email.
"Think of it like sending a letter on the back of
a postcard. If you wanted it to remain private you just wouldn't do it,"
Instant chat software packages, such as Windows Messenger,
are common, quick ways to keep in touch.
Messenger now comes as standard on any Windows operating
Again, Messenger is un-encrypted, so be aware of what
information you are passing through the system although Gary says it would
be unlikely you would be "hacked".
"Messenger is one of those things where information
is travelling between one user to another, therefore the hacker would
need to be already in one PC (which had been hacked already) or between
point A and point B.
"It isn't impossible and Messenger certainly can
be hacked, but it's not something many people would be able to do,"
However there was one recent scam where hackers were
using the "file exchange" option on Messenger to compromise
the recipient PC.
With both email and other communication software like
Messenger it is important that you never open attachments you aren't expecting
or from people you don't know.
A recent survey carried out by the Association for Payment
Clearing Services found that one in 10 credit card transactions are now
carried out over the internet
There is no doubting the popularity of buying online
and generally it is fairly safe to do, but there are some ways to limit
symbol is always found in the bottom right hand corner of a secure
Always make sure you can see the "padlock"
symbol at the bottom of the webpage before you enter any payment or personal
This symbol is an internationally recognised sign that
you are in a secure area and any information will be encrypted before
it is sent on.
Secure pages will also change from the standard http://
prefix to https://.
Always try to use well known and trusted companies when
buying online and avoid giving out any personal information on a site
you haven't checked out first.
Organisations such as "Paypal" are generally
a safer way to buy from smaller businesses online as they ensure only
the correct amount of money is taken from your account, which helps cut
down fraudulent transactions.
It's not just buying online that we delve into though,
internet banking has become a quick and easy way of managing money for
Internet banking is overall very secure, however recent
scams have emerged where hackers send emails, apparently from your bank,
asking for personal details.
When bank users then send their details to their "bank"
the hacker takes over their account.
All banks maintain that they will never send any banking
requests via email so never reply and give out any personal information.
Some banks will email promotional offers and advertisements for products,
but it will never ask for any personal details to be sent back.
Viruses are one of the biggest threats to home users
as they can sneak up and wreak havoc seemingly out of the blue.
The only way to protect yourself from viruses or worms
is to ensure you have good anti-virus software on your PC. There are many
different versions on the market but the key with any brand you use is
to update it regularly.
|New ways to
penetrate computer systems are being devised by hackers every day|
Hackers create new viruses or worms on a constant basis,
and although there are "white hackers" who work to foil the
attempts of their "black" counterparts on an equally constant
basis, you won't receive the benefit of that unless you have the latest
version of the anti-virus software.
Most updates are available from the supplier's website
so make sure you keep up to date with the latest "virus fix"
Operating systems such as Microsoft Windows XP also need
updating regularly to get the latest additions to keep your computer safe.
Gary's advice is to keep updating your computer whenever feasible.
"Latest versions of Windows for example, offer much
more security and will also tell you when you need to download a new add-on
to your system," he says.
Fighting fire with fire
Firewalls are another way to protect your computer from
"Basically when you go online you become part of
the internet community and without a firewall your computer is exposed
to anyone in that community," Gary explains.
Recent worms have been created to specifically target
PCs without a firewall, and once they penetrate your system they can access
all your personal details.
The latest operating systems on the market have firewalls
installed as standard but if you are unsure, most service providers such
as AOL or BT offer free firewalls for their clients. Alternatively you
can download firewalls such as ZoneAlarm from the internet.
Parental guidance required
With computer use becoming commonplace in the home, many
children are now logging on regularly.
Parents do need to be aware of what their children are
doing on the internet and who they are in contact with.
be as vulnerable on the internet if they follow some simple rules |
Unfortunately there are some dodgy characters out there
that prey on youngsters but you can keep the risk to a bare minimum.
Make sure children are educated in "netiquette".
Ensure they are aware of the potential risks and teach them to never give
out any personal details such as phone numbers, schools or even surnames.
Many service providers offer filters for clients so that
you can block any possibly unsafe websites. The software searches for
any unsuitable material such as violent images or adult material - and
blocks the browser from loading it.
However no filter is foolproof so make sure you keep
an eye on what your children are up to on the 'net.
If possible keep the computer in an easily accessible
area such as the living room so that you can constantly monitor which
sites your child is accessing.
Although hackers do seem to be able to stay one step
ahead of the average computer user, Gary says that's why we just have
to stay up to date.
Major companies employ "white hackers" to continually
thwart any attempt by those wanting to cause havoc on our computers and
to continue devising ways of making our systems more secure.
That's why the best way to stay secure is to let them
keep you secure! Make sure you are regularly updating your system and
keep in mind security measures whenever you log on.
Computers and the internet can be risky if you don't
follow some basic security rules but they can also be an amazing place
to learn, contribute and enjoy, so what are you waiting for?
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