We all like the convenience of online banking, the use of easy credit and getting immediate updates from our Facebook friends or posting on Instagram. But with this new freedom to connect and the advent of Cloud computing, we now live in a much more “transparent” and open society than even just a few years ago; and because our data is no longer centrally nor locally controlled as it once had been, we all have become vulnerable to cyber crime.
So what can you do about your privacy being so much more vulnerable to exposure, where your personal information can be easily compromised? Is there a way you can help prevent cyber crime from happening to you? Yes. Here are some simple steps you can take to help protect yourself against cyber crime:
- Change your online passwords often, and make sure they are “complex”. Especially make sure your AOL or Yahoo passwords are complex, since these email services have notoriously been targets.
- When entering your information online, make certain you are on a secure page. This will be designated in a browser by the “s” in the url: https://www.websitename.com.
- Back up your data regularly. It is best to have a detached backup strategy or program in place, especially if you have a business. (See http://chagrin-falls.savelocalnow.com/deal/Monthly-Backup-Drive-Swap-for-CF-Village-Merchants)
- Update your operating software regularly. If running a Windows operating system, turn on your updates so they download automatically: To turn this feature on, go to Control Panel\System and Security\Windows Update.
- Browsers are increasingly becoming gate-keepers in trying to determine whether or not a site abides by certain security practices. A warning box will notify you if a site is unsafe, or doesn’t pass mustard. Interent Explorer 11, for instance, has a much improved Smart Screen filter that helps protect you against malicious websites and software. Pay attention to these warnings and you’ll be able to surf the web a little safer.
- Finally, if you’re running XP, you need to upgrade to either Windows 7 or Windows 8 since support from Microsoft is dropping in April. This means your software will be left vulnerable to security holes unless you upgrade. Upgrading can be a daunting task, so ClickIT is here to help if you need us. Call us at (440) 247-4998 to discuss a transition plan.
How we all became vulnerable, from a historical perspective: How did this vulnerability come about? With the level and availability of service offerings exploding, repackaged and offered as applications (“apps”) in the Cloud, your data is now virtually everywhere. Historically, the servers and software running these apps and services, and therefore the storage of your data, has moved from being “hosted locally” (legacy software), to “hosted down the hall” (enterprise software), to now “installed up in the sky” (appliance or “utility” software) in data centers that could be essentially anywhere in the world. Increased Internet speeds, computer storage capacities and improved software have been the main factors enabling this transformation. In using the public network and trusting these apps with your private information, your data has become more vulnerable to cyber attacks and unfortunately experts say it will at one point be compromised, guaranteed, if it hasn’t already. Taking the steps as outlined above will help reduce your risks, but a lot unfortunately will reside on chance and what new vulnerabilities prop up.
Businesses Have More to Consider: If you run an organization or business using computers and are concerned about cyber crime, as you should be, here is some further information you may want to consider as you continue into the new year:
Private versus Public Cloud: Online networks are complicated. Building them well and then maintaining a securely hosted Cloud environment for a myriad of different applications can be daunting. We know because we’ve done it. Privately maintained networks are essentially safer environments to have hosted services with. At ClickIT we maintain a data center in downtown Cleveland, where we host applications, email, websites, data and servers for companies nationwide. It is a much safer environment to be hosted for a myriad of reasons. One reason is because smaller, private networks are less of a target — no pun intended (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pom42RDo_wE&list=PLbLjzX-74Exc1iVoFUJIzyuzGUAC3Wlb0.)
Managed versus Standard Hosting: “Managed” hosting versus “standard” hosting plays an important part when deciding what environment is best for an application or website, especially when data security is important. There’s plenty to consider when needing to secure data of course. Versions of different software running the applications and all the browser updates and constant changes can overwhelm a service provider as we have learned over the years. Not updating server software and then having a new browser appear, as happened recently with the Windows Explorer 10, can cause all sorts of problems. While it takes Systems Administrators and special appliances such as firewalls and servers, the most important element to securing data is the platform (server software) that the data is hosted on. Two broadly categorized platforms to pay special attention to are “Open Source” and “Closed Source”. Linux (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux) is an open source platform. When writing software, developers use free software such as PHP which uses MySQL to store information. WordPress sites (on which I’m writing this blog) has been known to be susceptible to hacking attacks, where Viagra ads show up in place of your information, when hosted on external servers. These hackers usually get in through plug ins. Microsoft writes closed source code server software which we use as a Microsoft partner at ClickIT. Many argue that closed source code is less vulnerable to cyber attacks because security holes are subjected and addressed differently. I agree with this based on our own experience here writing software and hosting what we write.
Private Networks are More Secure: The key to securing data on any network so it won’t get lost, damaged or destroyed, is “redundancy”. The most important aspect of any network from getting compromised, is “security”. Private networks are more secure generally speaking because they are less of a target to outside attacks who are looking for bigger fish. “Redundancy” is needed not only in the information but also with the equipment. For instance, every server we own has multiple power supplies and multiple hard drives which are mirrored. Assuring that duplication and redundancy is done properly when you own the equipment, and physically have access to it, in our private Cloud makes the job of securing and protecting the data much easier. While the challenges of securing data remains the same for both private and public networks, the difference is that on a private network you have a better chance of keeping more control over your information, and at least you know where the data is stored and you have immediate and physical access to it.
This rapid acceleration of technology into the fabric of our lives has also perpetuated a tremendous lack of understanding regarding these hosted technologies, and the vulnerabilities it has thrusted upon us.
At ClickIT, we do security assessments where we test the vulnerabilities of a business network. Because most everyone’s particular online presense is unique, the best advise I can give someone concerned about security is to consult with an IT professional or organization like ClickIT, that you can trust, BEFORE you are compromised. Get familiar with all the technologies you’re exposed to daily and learn about what protection mechanisms there are for yourself, your business and your family. This is a new brave world where everyone needs to manage their own line of cyber defenses. At ClickIT we’re here to help and can sit down with you anytime for a consultation at our store at 16 S. Main Street, Chagrin Falls, across form the BP. Come visit us!