Cyber Health and Uni Life: How safe are you on the Internet of Things?

Writer: Nuwan Ramawickrama

Almost all of us rely on our trusty laptop to safeguard our study data and other valuable information. Especially, when it comes to the submission deadlines, every word we write on that file matters. But what would happen if someone else took control of our personal computer in that crucial time? Are we ready for that threat? Is your computer safe?

Although we have heard cyber security horror stories we as a society do not seem to be up to date about the threats around us. Gartner Inc. a technology research company, predicted that there will be 6.8 billion devices in use in 2016. That is a 30 percent increase above 2015 figures. More devices connected to the internet mean more opportunities for cyber criminals to try their luck in the Internet of Things. There are a few types of extortion schemes that we need to be aware of, such as headless worms, ransomware, mobile malware, rootkits, ghostware and two-faced malware. Among them Ransomware and Mobile malware are two major attacks that students commonly face.

As 2016 Trend Micro Security Predictions highlighted in the last decade, cyber criminals use fear as a weapon on their victims. This is apparent in the early cases of ransomware, where access to your computer can be made limited. But today’s ransomware is more evolved, sophisticated and personalised than ever before. Usually having an updated and active antivirus software and regular external back up of data will prepare us for these types of ransomware attacks, but today the ransomware does not stop at only encrypting your hard drive. Hackers will extract data from your hard drive and process it to personalise the threat against you and force you to pay them. One might think, ‘I am not an enterprise’, or that ‘I don’t have that kind of valuable data’. But these cyber extortionists will use nude pictures, or links to certain websites against personal users. As many cyber security specialists advise, externally backing up your data would be the best way to guard yourself against ransomware.

The second type of attack we should be aware of is mobile malware. We have all heard about malware attacks to our computers. But with the increase use of mobile devices and applications for online payments such as mobile wallets, criminals are now targeting mobile platforms. While most of us tend not to use an antivirus application in our mobile phones, it’s important to know that, from 2014 to 2015 there was a 61% increase of mobile malware attacks. The recent malware attack on the big four banks’ android applications is a good example of why we need an antivirus on our mobile phones. The banks weren’t the only ones to be targeted by malware attacks. Mobile users were fooled by look-alike applications of PayPal, eBay, WhatsApp and other google services. .Hackers gained access to users’ text messages and then sent verification code messages without the victims’ knowledge.

If you feel a bit uncomfortable using your computer or mobile device online, check to see if you are using correct methods to protect yourself from cyber crooks.

Be safe out there.

Nuwan studies Masters of Business analytics at VU Flinders.

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