Hacking…is anyone safe?

It appears not, amid headlines of recent attacks on large companies and organisations, such  as Nortel Networks, Microsoft India, Ticket Master and most famously the CIA.

Whether it be someone after your website or someone after your PC, it seems like everyone out there wants your data.

What can you do?

Whilst it may seem that determined professionals will stop at nothing , there are steps you can take to make it a more difficult process and also help to prevent the casual hacker from getting access to your information or site.

Prevention is better than cure !

On your PC, install Anti-virus and firewall software.  This needn’t cost a fortune and indeed there are some excellent free packages out there, including some built to the operating system for Windows users.  A lot of ISP and banks also offer Security software to their customers too!

Anti-Malware / Ad-ware software is also another line of defence that can help protect from those software packages that may have a legitimate use, but then installs more than you bargained for!

Keep your Website and PC’s  up-to date with the latest releases and patches.

Once you’ve installed security software – you need to keep it updated as hundreds of new virus outbreaks occur each month.

  • Set your Anti-Virus program to automatically check and install updates to the Virus Definition files.  
  • Make sure you turn on real-time scanning and also scheduled scans, overnight is a good time as scanning won’t slow you down.

A lot of software updates are to do with the the latest vulnerabilities discovered, so install them.  Let your PC do all the hard work;

  • turn on the Windows Automatic Update functionality to take care of patches for your Windows operating system
  • installed software can often check automatically for updates.  This is a good idea for browsers and other internet facing software, that is often attacked.

Updating software also applies to your website too, especially if you run any common third party software for blogs, shopping carts or forums which are often targets for attack due to the availability of open source code and all the potential targets that use them.    Good news is that this popularity mean that updates to the core product and plug-ins are frequent, and will patch up security problems as they are found.

Belt and Braces – backup your data

No matter what you do, sometimes a problem can happen.  If the worst should happen then the knowledge you back up all your data regularly, is a reassurance.  With the cost of Hard Drives coming down again after the flooding in Taiwan, it is very cheap to make sure that you have a backup plan in place.

I’ve been hacked – what now ?

Firstly – don’t panic!  Although that is not the first reaction for most people, I’ll admit.

If you suspect you PC has been compromised then you need to use your anti-virus scanner and do a full scan.  This will report any problems and normally remove problems automatically.  They will also provide links to sites that will provide more information.

If your virus scanner won’t work for any reason, search the internet for a list of the many free on-line scanners available that will run and report on any problems you have. They may not fix them, but you will at least know if there are any issues.

However – make sure to pick an on-line scanner from a reputable firm that you may have heard of and research first online. There are many bogus scanners out there that claim to scan your PC and then suggest you need to buy expensive software to fix the problems.

If you feel your Website has been compromised, then seek help from your Host if they offer such a service or your web designer if they do.  If you run your own site, again there is a lot of on-line services that can assist.

Finally, it may be that you will need to call on those back-ups, you did set them up didn’t you?