Are hackers our biggest threat?
BY: BENJAMIN "BENJI" KARMIS
The accusations against Russia hacking the 2016 presidential election are no secret. Subsequently, internet safety has been on the forefront of the world’s mind. Even on a smaller scale, there’s still a looming threat of hackers digging their fingers into our day-to-day life. Some only use the world wide wed for entertainment and others rely on it to operate our entire businesses. We all have a credit card attached to some sort of virtual service, but none of us have a clue how to combat hackers’ looming presence. Not even our government knows how to stop it, but they’re working on it.
There are many fingers pointing at Russia for rigging the election. We’ll try to not get too political here, but if another country’s strings were pulled from afar, the implications could be horrendous. Or, rather, it’s been something governments have been doing long before 2016, with the US-backed leader of the rigged election of South Vietnam coming to mind. Regardless, though, the government has been ramping up its efforts in cyber security to protect America’s electronic might. For instance, the US Air Force’s mission statement was adjusted to also wage war in cyberspace. Plus, in future elections, America will certainly (hopefully) keep a closer eye out for any more foreign meddling.
On a smaller scale, our companies have been in harm’s way. We enjoy blaming Seth Rogan and James Franco for the famed Sony hack of 2014, which devastated the business by the blood-thirsty hands of North Korea for their portrayal of Kim Jon Un because of Sony’s movie. More recently, ransomware has ramped up its game, threatening to encrypt data unless a fee is paid to provide the encryption key. In a nutshell, they’re the tallest kid on the playground holding your homework over their head unless you give them your lunch money. While the government can back up firms against these drastic cases, companies can also hire ethical hackers to find weak points in their security to prevent being hacked in the first place.
While North Korea isn’t terribly likely to split hairs over what the small fish in the US tank are doing, ransomware and the likes are indeed still a threat to individuals. Even if your bank account is empty, personal details can be stolen from you to open credit cards or bank accounts, adding more to the looming debt of your outstanding college loans.
Even if spotting scammers and hackers involve a more zeroed eye than the classic Nigerian prince scam, you can still protect yourself. The biggest threat to cyber security is you. How is that possible? Well, you probably use the same password for everything so you don’t forget it, right? Or you don’t think before you click links? Maybe you don’t even have a VPN? Those are big no-nos for your online well-being.
Don’t beat yourself up over it though because most of us do it, even at the workplace. Who wants to have to remember a bunch of new passwords, anyway? Perhaps try making a different password for accounts that credit card numbers, addresses, and maybe even cell phones are attached to. If emails look fishy, even when they’re from your friends, don’t click the link. You probably didn’t win a free trip to Hawaii, so just don’t fill the pop-up form out. Most importantly for your personal security, if you don’t already have a VPN, use one because they are indescribably valuable. But realistically, your most important tool against hackers is just using common sense.
Though the new virtual battleground has been tumultuous, the skirmishes are likely taking place far above your head, so your personal safety is largely determined by nobody else but yourself. Are trying to give you anxiety over your internet safety? Not in the slightest. Just like any other act of terrorism, no matter what precautions you take, you only have so much control. Use your common sense, and you’ll still be able to enjoy some of the good that has come from the bouts of cyber-warfare, such as releasing “The Interview” online before originally planned.