Computer Clean with Cyber-Hygiene

Cyber-Attacks Can Impact More than Just Big Business

Are you planning to buy the Apple Watch?

It might be the wearable wave of future, but it also might be just one more personal device — from your fitbit to your phone or even your internet-controlled thermostat — that is vulnerable to a cyber-attack.

As FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez noted earlier this year at the International CES: “Any device that is connected to the internet is at risk of being hijacked.”

That’s right, it’s not just big corporations like Sony or Target that can be hacked. Cybersecurity is an increasingly personal issue for all of us as we rely more on connected devices.

By 2020, some 50 billion connected devices will be part of what is being referred to as the “Internet of Things.” These devices are already tracking our health, location, activity. They can unlock our homes, make deposits, transfer money, start our cars, and eventually will help us build “smart cities” — which will be internet-connected and run autonomously.

This all promises increased efficiency but what if it’s hacked? Connected cars sound great but what if your vehicle can be reprogrammed from a nearby laptop? Turns out it can. BMW recently had to repair the software for its Connected Drive in more than 2 million cars after members of a German auto club figured out how to send fake remote-unlock commands to the cars.

Downloading a free app might seem harmless but as we’ve seen with free Android flashlight apps, they can also be used as an entry point into obtaining more private information stored on your smart device. And as the New York Times recently noted, criminal hackers have developed mobile apps to steal victims online passwords. This access can, in turn, be used to access your bank account or be used for extortion.


So what’s being done to defend our devices and data?

At SXSW this year, Yahoo CIO Alex Stamos gave a demo of a new, password-less encrypted email service that will automatically make users’ messages more private. It should be available later this year. While in February, President Obama signed an executive order focused on promoting the sharing of cyber threat information among the public and private sectors. Startups are also racing to create secure data solutions, such as private web browsers, encrypted data, and biometric systems to replace passwords.

But users also have to become more discerning about opening fake “software update” links or an “urgent message” from your bank. These “unintentional insider” events cause some of the major attacks, and were the culprit of the now infamous Sony hack. Other personal habits like changing passwords regularly and making sure your Bluetooth isn’t publicly visible may seem obvious, but can also go a long way towards improving your personal “cyber-hygiene.”

Of course there is always the option of unplugging completely. That may only prevent hacking temporarily, but it’s also good for your health.

Take it from star Father John Misty, who offered good romantic — and cybersecurity — advice in his new song, “True Affection”: “When can we talk with the face, instead of using all these strange devices?”

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