Online risks series #2: Understanding Hacking

Speaking in real-life terms, none of us would leave our cars or houses unlocked. We wouldn’t leave all our valuable assets on display, in view of everyone, waiting for someone to walk in and take them. It’s common sense to be secure.

This then poses the question as to why we would view our digital devices in a different light? For example, a phone, iPad or laptop will, in most instances, contain private images or videos, personal details and potentially even bank details, besides other sensitive information.

Recent News

Recent news has underlined just how high-profile hacking is becoming. The international business support services company ISS, the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas, Georgia, and even the White House, have been subject to some form of hacking.

At the beginning of the month, both of Facebook’s Twitter and Instagram were hacked to show how vulnerable they were.

Hacking is a big problem and it’s not going away any time soon.

What is hacking?

Before you can prevent and protect against hacking, it’s imperative to learn how it transpires and the method behind it. To condense its meaning, hacking refers to the process in which a person(s) attempts to steal data, personal information or files through breaking into devices.

Hacking is a criminal offence, but ‘hackers’, as they’re often described, have very little constraint. As well as the bigger targets above, children and young people can often be targeted due to their perceived naivety and vulnerability. In most cases, hacking is carried out with the purpose of financial gain – leaving devastating repercussions for the victim(s).

Analysing the dangers

Theft of personal data can happen in a number of ways. This can be in the form of virus emails, otherwise known as phishing, access of details through an unsecure wireless network connection or even with persistence – the method of attempting countless passwords before eventually guessing the correct one.

Identifying the signs

Identifying if you’ve been hacked isn’t always easy at first and it can sometimes be a number of weeks or months before you realise your data has been illegally accessed. Some of the most common signs that are associated with being hacked include:

  • Ransomware messaes which may ask for a payment to unlock the device or screen.
  • Fake antivirus messages.
  • Internet searches which are redirected to unsecure websites.
  • Frequent, random popups that appear even after you’ve closed them down.
  • Friends receiving social media invitations from you that you didn’t send.
  • Online passwords aren’t working - in this case they may have already changed them.
  • Unexpected software installs.
  • Your mouse moves between programs and makes selections without you doing anything.
  • Missing money in your bank or online account.
  • Confidential data has been leaked.

Steps to take prior to and after being hacked

There are procedures you can take to help tackle hacking happening in the first place – some simple and some more complexed. A straightforward option would be to set strong passwords, using a mixture of numbers, letters and special characters, as opposed to easy to guess alternatives. More detailed options include the installing of antivirus software – designed to protect your device from unwanted visitors.

If you are unfortunate enough to have been hacked, various steps are available to you. Most social media and online accounts will be enabled with a report option which gives you the ability to inform the company of the incident so that they can proceed further with the case. It’s also crucial to inform children that, upon reporting any incident to you, that they have done the right thing and reassure them further.

Much more information on hacking, as well as a variety of online risks, is available across our range of courses.

Click here to view our full range of courses designed for the whole school community.

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