How people think they get hacked vs how they really are hacked

Johannesburg – There are two big reasons why people get hacked.

Flaws in software and flaws in human behaviour.

While there is not much you can do yourself about your technical vulnerabilities, you can change your online behaviour to safeguard your personal information.

According to Check Point’s latest Threat Intelligence Report, over the last six months, an organisation in South Africa is being attacked on average 1 537 times a week – almost double the attacks per organisation globally.

 The risks are just as real for the average person. If your accounts aren’t properly protected, your credit card could be compromised, or your private messages and photographs stolen and shared for all to see.

We hear stories about cyber-attacks day in and day out, Africa experienced the highest volume of attacks so far in 2021, with an estimated average of 1,615 weekly attacks per organization, a 15 percent increase from last year.

Many think that a “hacker” refers to some self-taught rogue programmer skilled at modifying computer hardware or software so it can be used in ways outside the original developers’ intent. This may not be the case.

Cyber criminals rely on deception and creating a sense of urgency to achieve success with their phishing campaigns. Attackers often impersonate a trusted person or company the victim would interact or work with.

 These messages aim to trick the user into revealing important data — often a username and password that the attacker can use to breach a system or account. The classic version of this scam involves sending out an email tailored to look like a message from a major bank.

Due to the pandemic, these cyber criminals have been taking advantage of industries that have been hit the hardest, such as financial companiesfitness groups,  municipalities, and educational facilities.

These hackers also see the pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of employees that are now working remotely on their personal devices.

But what are the risks that all these users sharing personal information online or on social media? Check Point Software researchers warns of the dangers that many potentially expose themselves to, including account theft and fraud – your stolen personal data can be used for a hacker’s personal gain. Here is what you can do to protect yourself online:

  1. Learn to spot a phishing attack – know that no bank or online payment system will ever ask you for your login credentials, ID number, or credit card numbers by means of email or text.
  2. Update everything, including your software – every piece of technology you use is open to attack. Whether you’re on your phone or a computer, make sure your operating system remains updated. And update your other resident software as well.
  3. Password Safety – if a hacker discovers one of your passwords that you use for multiple services, they have apps that can breach your other accounts. So, make your passwords long and complicated, avoid using the same one for different accounts, and instead use a password manager.
  4. Enable two-factor authentication – This is essentially a 2-step verification process. Be more vigilant when it comes to trusting links in emails and SMSs sent to you, especially since your email address or mobile number has been leaked.
  5. Wipe your digital footprint – The past can come back to haunt you. The old online accounts you no longer use and the login details that belong to them can be weaponised against you if you don’t do anything about them. Hackers frequently use details from previous data breaches to access the accounts people currently use.

As a precaution, it is good to install security software on your devices to protect you from malware, prevent data theft and keep you safe while you visit sites and transact online.

With so many potential threats online, how are you supposed to protect your information from cyber criminals? While cybercrime will never be completely stopped, it can be prevented. It all starts with practicing good online safety habits. And for users, vigilance is key.

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