In 2012, LinkedIn was infamously hacked and the password details of users released and shared across the darker reaches of the web. Old news you would think. Unfortunately, four years on in 2016, reports are again surfacing that this may not be the last we hear about this particular breach. Earlier this year, it came to the attention of security researchers that some 117 million examples of passwords and email addresses were being sold together on data sharing websites, leading to the estimation that 167 million LinkedIn users are likely to have suffered in some form.
Hacking as a criminal act is on the rise. As our world becomes ever more interconnected, and the Internet of Things sees all devices open to networks and communication, the risks become more real. The opportunity to hack increases too, as more and more of what we own has the ability to be exploited. We have become a generation and economy that thrives on information and data, turning it effectively into a currency. In the same way that highway men would hold up coaches with a gun, and crooks would rob banks with the same, we now have criminals who can hide weaponless behind a keyboard, for more gain than ever before.
At Digital Pathways we talk a lot about ‘hackers’, generally describing them as cyber-criminals whose sole intention is to cause damage to individuals and corporations. We often describe the nefarious means by which a hacker endeavours to force entry into your system and obtain valuable information or data. We paint them as malicious, creating chaos online for no other reason than their own personal gain, or the simple destruction of others. Equally, they are highly adept computer programmers, with an in-depth knowledge of the digital world and the ways in which it can be manipulated.
When it comes to digital security, the attitudes of small business owners are beginning to change. Across the UK, and across multiple sectors too, we are beginning to see a shift towards companies protecting themselves more robustly online. Still though, and regardless of the media coverage of hacking scandals, there are some who still refuse to believe that there is a very real threat that surrounds them.
The decision of the United Kingdom’s electorate to vote to leave the European Union has left us all with a number of yet unanswered questions. Many are asking how this decision will affect trade. Will we really be able reduce immigration by refusing the freedom of movement, whilst still retaining access to the EU’s single market? What will happen to the 1.3 million Britons who currently live abroad and the 2.9 million (5% of the population) of European migrants who live in the UK? In the immediate aftermath, questions were also being asked over leadership and who was best placed to take David Cameron’s position at Number 10. We now know that Theresa May will be the one to invoke the infamous ‘article 50’ and lead us through negotiations with the remaining nations.
The practice of phishing as a means for cyber-criminals to obtain sensitive information from an online user is rife. Usernames, passwords and credit card details are all at risk, with the theft of money often the ultimate goal of the hacker. The most common method of phishing is for the criminal to send out an email that gives the impression that it has come from an official source. This email will likely have a link that leads to somewhere harmful, or an attachment that has malicious intent when opened.
The Impact of Website Hacking
When is a cyber-attack not an attack? An interesting conundrum, but one that many website owners are beginning to consider thanks to a new wave of cyber-crime that is sweeping the internet. We have covered a number of topics through the Digital Pathways blogs that deal with the obvious repercussions of a hack or cyber-attack. When it comes to the Risks of Ransomware for instance, the dangers are obvious, namely the encryption of your data by a hacker who then blackmails you for its return. Targeted phishing too has quite evident consequences, with the release of malware onto a network that subsequently leaks your important data. Website hacking in contrast is not a denial of service attack. In fact, you might not even know you’ve been hacked.
For years it has been common practice to regularly change the passwords you use for key logins. Users have been repeatedly encouraged to come up with unique variations in an attempt to help keep cyber criminals at bay and to safeguard against hacking. But, in what some people are finding a confusing turnaround, the UK government has now repeated advice against doing exactly this, claiming instead that it plays directly into the hands of those you are trying to protect against.
Picking up the phone is a hazardous business these days. Whether it is a call regarding PPI for an account that never existed, or an imaginary problem with your PC that desperately requires attention, there are a lot of reasons to ignore what comes down the line. One place you can consider yourself safe though is surely voicemail. The cold callers generally avoid leaving a message, and anything that does squeak through can be ignored and deleted. So where does Voicemail Phishing enter the equation, and why are we warned that it is on the rise?
When you stop to think about the businesses who have been hacked in recent years, there have been some quite big names under the spotlight. Organisations such as Sony and Ashley Madison are good examples of recent scandals. These companies, although working on digital platforms, were subject to some quite serious breaches that have severely affected the way they are able to operate. The reason why is simple; lack of security as a result of lack of knowledge. But although ‘Digital’ businesses, surely the same thing couldn’t happen to a company as technology leading and digitally savvy as Google. Could it?