There’s no such thing as bul­let­proof dig­i­tal se­cu­rity

But, thank­fully, there are sim­ple things you can do to re­duce your ex­po­sure. APC’s ed­i­tor Dan Gar­diner ex­plains.

APC Australia - - Contents - ED­I­TOR-IN-CHIEF dan.gar­diner@fu­turenet.com

It’s no huge se­cret that the last 12 months have been a ter­ri­ble pe­riod when it comes to dig­i­tal se­cu­rity. Sev­eral ma­jor tech­nolo­gies that form the bedrock of our mod­ern com­put­ing era have been shown to have crit­i­cal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. We’ve seen KRACK un­der­mine Wi-Fi and Spec­tre/ Mel­down go to the very core of our smart­phone and com­puter pro­ces­sors. In some cases, these are prob­lems that can’t be 100% pro­tected against with soft­ware up­dates — al­though in­stalling the lat­ter can mit­i­gate the chance of an at­tack be­ing suc­cess­ful to odds that are al­most as good.

The good news is that cy­ber crim­i­nals are fairly savvy (and/or lazy) when it comes to choos­ing who they go af­ter — mean­ing un­less you’re a govern­ment em­ployee or con­trac­tor, you work in an in­dus­try with su­per-se­cret trade se­crets (and no, the ‘11 se­cret herbs and spices’ don’t count), or you’re a jour­nal­ist cov­er­ing geopo­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive coun­tries top­ics (like, say, China or Rus­sia), it’s un­likely any­one is go­ing to specif­i­cally tar­get you for hack­ing. Like any good busi­ness op­er­a­tors, cy­ber crims want to see a good re­turn on in­vest­ment for their time, so they build viruses and ex­ploits with the aim to in­fect as many ma­chines as pos­si­ble — to grab the low-hang­ing fruit, as it were. This means the best thing you can do it to pro­tect your­self is get your­self higher up in that tree, and harder to reach.

How? Sim­ple: give your­self a se­cu­rity au­dit and make sure all your de­vices have the lat­est firmware and soft­ware up­dates. Your smart­phone, day-to-day PC/ lap­top and home router should be the first hard­ware you check, along­side fre­quently-used soft­ware like your web browser. It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that the dev­as­tat­ing ‘NotPetya’ ransomware at­tack that af­fected tens of thou­sands of de­vices back in mid 2017 was largely made pos­si­ble be­cause peo­ple hadn’t in­stalled the lat­est OS patches. As much of a pain in the arse as those Win­dows up­dates can be, they do also pro­tect you from many com­mon se­cu­rity vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties.

You can check out this month’s superguide for key ad­vice on other ar­eas, like pass­words and surf­ing the web safely — but mak­ing sure you in­stall the lat­est soft­ware and hard­ware up­dates should be your first port of call.

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