If you pay attention to the headlines, it seems like hackers are hacking more than ever. Large companies like Apple and US giant Home Depot have fallen victim to security breaches of one kind or another.
Information relating to tens of millions of people has been compromised. But, how do hackers hack? What techniques do they use to infiltrate business networks and gather valuable data?
In this ongoing cyber conflict, it’s important to know your enemy. Read on to find out what strategies hackers use when they hack.
Using strong passwords is certainly a smart idea, but in some cases it’s not enough. Although strong passwords are hard for hackers to guess, many will simply try to obtain the password through illegal means.
This usually involves breaching the security measures of a website or company, thereby gaining access to a list of user passwords. This recent password hack is a great example.
You can protect your business by using unique passwords for each individual account and changing them every few months. You should also protect your systems from hacking attempts by using up-to-date security software.
If you ever go to a café, pub or airport, you might be tempted to connect to the free wireless network available there.
Free Wi-Fi is one of modern life’s conveniences. But be careful, because it can also be a prime target for hackers. They can set up fake wireless networks with legitimate-sounding names.
Once you’ve connected, hackers can steal your personal information and any unprotected data that you send over the network.
Be cautious when connecting to public Wi-Fi. Only use networks that require a password to connect and check the network name with the establishment you’re in.
Even then, don’t assume you’re safe. Consider connecting through a VPN to protect all the data you send across the wireless network.
Ah, the old fake email scams. Hackers try all kinds of approaches to snare victims via fake emails.
You can often spot them through telltale inconsistencies or spelling and grammar errors. In any case, never give sensitive information out through emails, especially if you’re unsure of the source. Be wary of phishing attacks through social media too.
Cookies are small pieces of data that websites place on your computer. They’re used to provide certain functions online (like remembering when you’ve logged in to a website, or what’s in your shopping cart).
Some hackers hack using a technique called ‘cookie hijacking’. Basically, they steal the cookies on your computer, then use them to pretend to be you when they visit a website.
Using good security software is a good precaution against cooking hijacking. There’s also a lot websites can – and should – do to make their users less vulnerable.
If you’re particularly worried, you can regularly erase cookies from your computer. However, this may cause your preferences on websites to vanish, so it can be inconvenient.
These four techniques are by no means the only way that hackers hack. But they’re some of the most common and sneaky.
This is a post from Rick Delgado, a freelance writer and tech commentator.
Apple released iOS 8 recently. Demand for this new version of its mobile operating system was so high that UK internet traffic surged as people rushed to download it.
Yet shortly after it became available, a number of tech pundits cautioned owners of older iPhones against upgrading.
Specifically, people who own the iPhone 4S were warned that the new operating system could cause everything to slow down.
This high-profile upgrade perfectly illustrates a question that’s faced businesses time and time again: should we upgrade our software now, or should we wait?
Software companies rely on big releases to give them a revenue boost. That’s why Microsoft throws the full force of its marketing machine behind each new version of its Windows and Office packages.
It’s nothing new — when Windows XP came out in 2002, they even got Madonna involved. But if the history of software upgrades teaches us anything, it should be that it’s usually best to wait.
There are lots of reasons to hold off installing a new version of software your business depends on:
So, even if you’re dazzled by the promised benefits of a new piece of software, it’s nearly always worth stopping to think before you plunge in and upgrade.
That’s just as true if you’re paying a monthly subscription for software that includes access to upgrades. In the short term, it might still be better to stick with the old version.
(It’s worth noting we’re referring to major, paid-for upgrades here, rather than the free security updates and patches that software companies release much more frequently. You should install these promptly to protect your data.)
Before you upgrade any software, stop and think carefully. Here are five key things to get your head round before you upgrade everyone in your company:
Finally, don’t assume that blindly upgrading is the best option for your business. Recent years have seen the software landscape change dramatically.
Cloud computing services are capturing an increasing slice of the software market. In some sectors, these innovative services are a great alternative to traditional desktop software.
If you think you’re due an upgrade, it’s the right time to investigate the alternatives and see if there’s anything better out there.
IT for Donuts is our regular weekly feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.
This week, we reveal how to check your Twitter user statistics. Since Twitter opened up its stats pages to everyone, this is easier than ever.
There are lots of reasons to check your Twitter user statistics. If you’ve been making a concerted attempt to market your business through Twitter, they can help you understand how well you’re doing.
And even if your business doesn’t have a serious social media strategy, Twitter user statistics can still show you how your tweets are doing.
Even if you do nothing else, you can check them today, then have a look again in a month’s time. That’ll give you some idea of whether you’re using Twitter efficiently.
Accessing Twitter user statistics used to be a bit of pain. And once you managed to get into them, there were still some doubts over the accuracy of the figures.
Nowadays, it’s easy to see your Twitter statistics:
Here’s a little information to help you interpret your Twitter user statistics screens.
Your Twitter user statistics can give you a good feel for how your tweets are performing. But don’t see them as the be all and end all.
Twitter isn’t simply about reaching as many people as possible. It’s about reaching the right people, and really connecting with them.
When an employee leaves your businesses, are you letting them walk out with access to valuable company data?
According to the 2014 Intermedia SMB Rogue Access Study, 89% of employees who leave a company retain access to business or cloud applications like Salesforce, PayPal, email and SharePoint.
That’s a scary figure. We’ve written a lot about IT security lately, but statistics like this make us think that this level of coverage is warranted.
When a member of staff leaves your business, you must have a way to revoke their access to all your resources. Failure to do so just invites disaster.
Of those people questioned for the research, 49% had actually signed in to an ex-employer’s account, despite having left the company.
Most of these people probably act out of curiosity, rather than malice. But they still have access to apps that may contain important company data.
A minority will almost certainly be intending to do harm to their former employers. It only takes one person to cause you all sorts of problems.
You could be looking at hefty reputational damage, a loss of competitive advantage — or even a big fine from the Information Commissioner.
“Most small businesses think ‘IT security’ applies only to big businesses battling foreign hackers,” says Michael Gold, president of Intermedia.
“This report should shock smaller businesses into realising that they need to protect their leads databases, financial information and social reputation from human error as well as from malicious activity.”
You can start by putting some proper procedures in place to control and revoke access when employees leave your company. These are some good starter tips:
It can be trickier than you might expect to get a handle on who has access to what in your business. However, once you do so, you can be more confident of retaining control over your most important data.
IT for Donuts is our regular weekly feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.
This week, learn some Microsoft Windows keyboard shortcuts that help you move application windows around the screen. These are particularly helpful if you use more than one screen with your computer.
These shortcuts work in Windows 7 and 8.
If you’re working in a window but want to show another window alongside it, a simple shortcut will ‘tile’ that window to the left or right of your screen.
This means the Window will snap to the left or right of the screen, and resize itself to take up half of the width of your monitor. You can then move another window into the space next to it.
To make your window ‘tile’ in this way, Hold down the Windows key (it’s the key in between Ctrl and Alt on the left side of your keyboard) and tap the left or right arrow keys.
If you have two monitors connected to your computer (like in the image, above), there’s another easy shortcut to move windows between the two monitors.
Hold the Windows and shift keys together, then tap the left or right arrow keys. This will move the window to your left screen or right screen.
Just over a week ago, Apple presented its new smartwatch to the world. This computer-on-your-wrist is Apple's first new type of product since the iPad. It'll be interesting to see if it has the same impact.
Wearable technology has been lauded as 'the next big thing' for a while. For instance, Google Glass went on sale in the UK earlier this year. And in March, a wearable technology show took place in London.
The Apple Watch might be the most mainstream piece of wearable tech yet. But that simply highlights the fact that plenty of strange gadgets have gone before it. Here are five of the most unusual:
Easily the most ridiculous pair of jeans we've ever seen, these trousers double up as a drumkit.
Well, to be precise, they're a set of electronic pads that you can wear under your clothes. When you tap them, they make noises. Prices start from $99 for a basic kit.
Have you ever felt the urge to wear a USB cable on your wrist? Last year, eBay teamed up with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to create bracelets that also work as USB phone chargers.
Practical? Almost certainly. Fashionable? Well, would you wear one?
Just check out how cool Brazilian football star Neymar looks wearing the Panasonic HX-A500 camera. You barely notice it's there:
Actually, this camera can go underwater and shoots at the latest 4K resolution (that's much better quality than your high-definition TV). So while it might not be subtle, it could be useful to extreme-sports fans.
These days, the crowdfunded Oculus Rift is picking up the VR mantle. Watch this space, then...
Hate expressing your feelings honestly? You'll be wanting the Ger Mood Sweater. It uses sensors on your hands to read your 'excitement level', then lights up the collar with colours that are supposed to reflect how you're feeling.
Yeah, whatever. This thing makes wearing even Google Glass seem pretty normal.