It is not paranoia if they really are out to get you. The bad news is that your data really is at risk. The worse news is that most of the time, there is nothing you can do about it. When you get targeted by someone who is bound and determined to steal your data, you can kiss it and any sense of privacy goodbye.
That loss is even more certain once they gain unfettered, physical access to your hardware. If you are a high-value target and your laptop has been seized by customs even for a few minutes, you should probably just leave it and get a new one. Not only will they gain access to everything on your system, they will likely be able to track your input thereafter.
Even if you are not a high-value target (and most of us aren’t), your data is still at risk. You would be surprised at just how easy it is for your system to be compromised. Here are a few of the risks you face, and what you can do about it:
Here’s the scenario: You are taking a break from work and doing a bit of web surfing. Suddenly, a message pops up informing you that your system has been taken over, leaving you locked out of all your data. Discovering it is true, you are then instructed on acquiring and transfer a certain amount of money in bitcoin to regain access to your data. You are the victim of ransomware.
So frequent are these attacks, some say 2016 is shaping up as the year of ransomware. What they do is encrypt your data, then sell you the decryption key for around $300 – $400. There are some basic things you can do for prevention. But if you are the victims of such an attack, prevention obviously didn’t work. Rather than thinking you’re safe, prepare for the worst.
There are two things you should do when you confirm a ransomware attack:
- Erase your computer and do a clean reinstall. Whatever gave them the opening for the attack is still on your system. The only way to be sure you got rid of it is with a clean reinstall.
- Restore your data from backup, not your system.
If your backup has been corrupted, you will have to call a hard drive recovery service. Depending on the situation, you may get your data back from an erased or damaged drive. Obviously, if you have a good backup, a ransomware attack will be nothing more than a minor inconvenience. Without a backup, you are at high risk of becoming yet another ransomware statistic.
One day, you are posting a picture of your breakfast cereal on Twitter (not a good way to use Twitter.) The next day, you are posting racist screes in support of ISIS (an even worse use of Twitter.) Thing is, you are not responsible for that second day’s activity. Someone has hijacked your account. And you are the one who will be investigated and banned.
There are a number of digital security tips from home protection experts that might apply. Use a multi-layered security approach. And stop oversharing. Digital thieves use information they learn about you to guess the answers to your security questions. That’s how they can take over your account.
If you use that Twitter login info for other things like your AppleID, you stand to lose a lot more than Twitter privileges.
The internet of things is at the very early stages and is not nearly ready for prime time. This is what you need to know: The IoT is not secure! The recent internet outage was powered, ironically enough, by insecure security cameras. It could have just as easily been your wifi lights or toaster.
Be aware of ransomware. Account for your account security. and stop buying insecure, early adopter garbage. Your data is at risk. It is time to make data security a much higher priority.