Technology & Innovation

Cyber security: How safe are you?


04 Jul 2021

These days, cyber security has become a very serious topic with cybercriminals taking it to the next level. Hacking your account to gain access to your sensitive information simply to bring you down, set you back, or worse, blackmail you and demand ransom, are now becoming more frequent.

Yes, information is now being “kidnapped.”  Welcome to the digital age. Indeed, gone are the days when men riding horses would hijack a train to rob it. These days, the bad guys hijack your computer system to steal.
Just recently, one of probably the most daring cyberattacks in United States history happened at an oil company running a vital, extensive, 5,500-mile pipeline delivering 45 percent of gasoline and jet fuel supplies from refineries on the Gulf Coast to terminals as far away as New York. 
Colonial Pipeline Co. announced in a statement that it has fallen victim to a ransomware attack, where almost 100 gigabytes of data were taken “hostage” by hackers, who have developed a ransomware software, Darkside, threatening to leak the sensitive information to the internet if the “ransom” is not paid. The cyberattack caused massive shortage of fuel in several states.
The incident prompted US President Biden to remark at the White House that his administration is taking it “very seriously.” He said the government is investigating the attack. Colonial coughed up $ 4.4 million to the hackers to get back its data.


In the UAE, global cybersecurity company, Kaspersky said over 15.8 million “brute force attacks,” meaning trial-and-error was used to obtain login information on what is called Remote Desktop Protocols (RDP), where reported last year as people work from home, making their computer systems sitting ducks to intruders and hackers.


According to Kaspersky, incidents of such trial-and-error guessing games shot up by 193 percent from 467,115 in February last year to 1.3 million a month later in the same year.


What’s even more worrisome is that, according to Kaspersky’s head of technical experts, Emad Haffar, brute attacks are likely to continue happening and at a high rate as work from home becomes part of the new normal. 


How safe are you?


Experts suggest that businesses and individuals enhance their security measures, starting with fortifying their RDP access. Extreme caution should be part of the whole exercise when buckling down to work or mingle with friends with your laptop or smartphone.

Here are some very valuable tips from authorities:


Use complex passwords. Norton Security suggests that you refrain from using the same password on different sites. And as banks repeatedly remind in the case of your ATM cards’ personal identification numbers (PINs), make it a habit to regularly change your passwords. 


Lastly, make your passwords complex. Try to stay away from using predictable combinations like birth dates. Use a combination of 10 letters, numbers and symbols noting that the longer the password, the more difficult it is to break because of the many combinations to try.There is also an app that helps manage passwords and keep them locked down.


Fortify home network. With your password secured, the next step would be a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which encrypts all messages and the likes as you send them. Experts say that for the most part, hackers are discouraged to obtain access to your communication line because all they get are encrypted data. VPNs are very useful when you are in public like malls, and restaurants, even in your hotel room.


Keep it low key. Always note that personal and private information should be locked in a vault, so to speak. Further, bear in mind that cybercriminals can pick a lead by stating your pet’s name or school you went to because these are common security questions.


Always be in the know about major security breaches. This article started off with the Colonial Pipeline Co.’s sad experience precisely to help you realise that these incidents are seeing opportunities to attack both individuals and businesses – and if such a well-organised establishment fell victim, the likelihood that you too could be one is absolutely not far-fetched. It pays to always breathe deep, know what the hackers have accessed and immediately change your password the moment you realise your key account has been compromised.


Regularly update your software.  Experts say hackers commonly use software flaws to get what they want. Routinely updating your software reduces chances of falling victim to cybercriminals.


The list goes on. But for the moment, these quick points are a must. Happy surfing!