Having experienced several scares on the internet I wonder how secure a blog, website, smartphone or social media account can actually be. I’ve been lucky enough to have some fantastic support around me to help and guide but (is this a ‘man’ thing)? I’ve also been determined to do things by myself. Getting things wrong is part of the learning curve and I can’t blame everything on my dyslexia. That leaves me with only one conclusion then; Sometimes I get it wrong!
As usual though there is a ‘however’ to add to that. Having had a few comments on my last blog my suspicions were raised as I noted the addresses of the emails. Although it’s nice to think my posts may have reached .de (Germany) and .xyz (who knows where?) I’m not likely to approve those comments without first checking their credibility. Putting the question out to Twitter I received an interesting tweet from Liam @ZaddleMarketing who advised me not to click on any links or even the email addresses in those suspicious comments. Confirming my fears that these posts were in fact SPAM but also advising me to look at a good security plugin for my WordPress site. Liam is a very knowledgeable and trusted member on Twitter and I won’t hesitate to recommend him. Of course there are lots of good people on social media that you know you can trust so it’s always best to ask the question of your contacts if ever you’re in doubt.
Thank You Kerrin
Thank you Kerrin @Kerrinwilson999 for your hospitality (and the lovely cake of course). It was really nice to meet you and I’m looking forward to extending the reach of LincsConnect to include regular posts by you and your team across the whole County. Thankfully I have already had some security tips from some of your colleagues and that information has proved invaluable. Hopefully you’ll enjoy my short post here today and will have time to add a comment too.
Getting It Right By Chance
I’ve heard that smart speakers listen in to our conversations and it’s not uncommon for adverts to pop up on our social media platforms directly relating to a conversation at home the previous day. I know I’ve had issues with my iMac and I’m convinced it had been infected with some sort of malware. It’s taken a long time to convince the experts that this is the case but after trying to rebuild my computer it has become obvious to them that some sort of infection had occurred. Thankfully it has been stripped back to factory settings now and re-built. It’s extremely uncommon (I’m led to believe) that an iMac can be infected but if it’s going to happen to anyone, it’ll happen to me! Technology and I don’t gel all of the time I’m afraid. However, having feared the worst following a rash of phishing emails (ransom emails sent to my inbox supposedly from my own address) I decided that the only course of action was to contact Lincolnshire Police Cyber Crime Unit who responded very quickly with a visit to my office. A full inspection of my computer confirmed that the emails were really just phishing emails and should be deleted. However, the nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right stayed with me and after several incidents with my computer Apple decided that a full restore and section by section re-build was required. Needless to say, I’m happy now that my computer and details are safe once again.
What if it’s true that the smart devices can leak our information? A recent BBC Panorama programme about Amazon revealed that they knowingly and openly use our information for marketing and advertising purposes. I don’t think that the machines (or people) are listening to our every conversation but when key words are detected the link is made with you, your device, your email address and your broadband hub. Recent news reports have also highlighted that smart devices can be hacked and accessed remotely. The video doorbells, video baby monitors and even smart TVs and smart fridges are all susceptible to the unscrupulous hackers who want our information. Accessing our personal data can be very upsetting and worrying of course so we need to protect ourselves.
If we can access any devices from our smartphone it’s a fair bet that the unscrupulous criminals can do the same. The smart fridge, smart monitor and smart TV come with factory settings and passwords that can be found easily online and it may not be possible to change those settings. Hacking your fridge isn’t too much of a problem of course. Let’s face it, what’s the worse case scenario with that? Perhaps someone could remotely alter the temperature or turn it off? I’m sure that isn’t going to be at the top of the criminals priority list but accessing your router from your fridge Or your smart TV etc may be more sinister.
The obvious and most basic form of self protection is strong passwords of course. Whenever you get the chance, change the passwords from factory settings to something that you can remember. Names aren’t usually a good idea for passwords as we would tend to use names of relatives, pets or celebrity/sporting heroes. All of these names are likely to crop up on your social media pages at some point so can easily be guessed. Random passwords are by far the best option but it’s important to have different passwords for different logins so that your security is as high as possible. There are some very clever Apps around that can store your passwords for you but I’m sure you will have your own remembering system that works for you.
I’ve had a few scary moments that have made me review my security of course but thankfully, as I don’t trust myself with technology, I don’t keep any client information on computer or electronic device. The closest I get to storage of any data is the phone numbers on my smartphone. That’s protected by a security password as well as facial recognition, finger print and VPN (I’ll cover VPN later). It’s better to be safe than sorry! Keeping your personal information safe should be a high priority and simple precautions can be all you need. If you have data stored on you mobile device make sure it’s protected with a security code and backed up regularly. My devices can be deleted remotely which is a good feature. If you’re not sure if you can do the same with your own device it’s best to check for peace of mind. Two factor authentication is handy too – that’s when you get an alert on your chosen device to tell you that someone is accessing your other devices. My iPhone will prompt me to confirm that I am who I say I am when I log onto my computer and I have to type in a one time only code before the computer will let me in. It takes seconds and provides an extra level of security.
You’ve changed your passwords from factory settings to secure ones that aren’t easily guessed. You have a different password for every device so you’re good to go….? Well, not quite! Your router may not be secure so if you’re not sure ask your provider to guide you through changing the factory set password. You’re ‘almost’ there… You’re now safe in your own home but what happens when you are out and about? Do you log in to the Cloud or other public WiFi to use your device? How secure is that system? The truth is, you have no idea. Your final piece of security is VPN. What is VPN? This is the explanation from Wikipedia: “A virtual private network extends a private network across a public network, and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network.” You might want to look this one up for yourself. It is a ‘belt and braces’ approach to security but if you have any private or confidential information on your devices you might want to read a bit more about it. It is a ‘paid for’ service so you’ll need to be aware of that and you’ll also need to be aware that not all internet routers are capable of installing it. However, once installed on your home router ‘all’ devices using that WiFi connection will be protected under the higher level of security. I have it installed and the one I chose covers six devices. I have it on my iPhone and iPad so that I know I’m secure whenever I log into a public WiFi system.
It’s Good To Share
All of this information comes from people I have spoken to who have been kind enough to guide me. I’m not an expert in this field at all but hopefully some of the things I’ve learned along the way and printed here will be useful fo you. If you have any other tips that may be useful for other users please feel free to add a comment and send a message on twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #LincsConnect
Helping each other is always good of course but if you need any additional help I suggest you contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP), local IT specialist or if you’re worried about cyber security you could contact @lincspolice to ask about their Cyber Security courses. I have been on one and can highly recommend it. After all, these are the experts who really want to help you to prevent crime.
Thank you all for taking the time to read my ramblings. I’ll be back soon with more blogs of course but keep watching as they are about to evolve into something quite unique.