A Layman’s Introduction to Cybersecurity -Part 2Understanding cyberattackson computers, networks a

By Theo Bogatsu

Socialisation pundits have spoken; the post COVID-19 era is bringing in a ‘new normal’.

Part of this new normal is increased digital interconnectedness. In the new normal, people are expected to fulfill their professional and life vocations remotely through the use of cyber technology. Communications networks will be right at the centre of this transformation.

As handy as it is becoming, cyber technology requires a high sense of enlightenment and caution on the part of the user for impact to be made. Cyber space is infested with all kinds of security threats that, if not tackled appropriately, can cause damage to data, networks, computers or any gadgets used to access technology.

Cybercrime, cyber terrorism cyberbullying and misinformation are among the leading threats to sustainable use of the internet.

As many are expected to increase their usage of communications networks through remote connectivity, either at homes or mobile, it is crucial that one applies the necessary measures to prevent cyberattacks. Computer and network security should longer just the preserve of institutional settings anymore. Home networks and mobile gadgets are and will increasingly become targets, particularly in the anticipated highly digitalized ‘new normal’.

This article therefore seeks to raise awareness on cybersecurity threats and outline measures that one can apply to protect their networks and gadgets

How to ensure protection against each of these and other forms of cyberattacks

In the context of organizations protecting a network is a whole topic in itself as a layered approach is required where security is concerned, there is no one thing that will protect you from all types of attacks- but making reference to the type of attack mentioned above called Phishing I will highlight on the need for user security awareness training for all staff members from the cleaners to the CEO as this is the cheapest form of defense and yet can defend against the most common type of attack, it’s common knowledge that the weakest link in Security is “The human element” technology can only do so much which is why Phishing is very common because in essence It’s easier to “ask” someone to install malware for you than it is to break/hack into a computer system and install it yourself.

If you are working from home always use VPN software to connect to the Office Network.

In Home Networks, which are generally very small, usually with just a modem connecting you to the outside world - its’ imperative that you protect your endpoints - this being all laptops, computers and cellphones connecting on your home network. Firstly, you need to have some form of antimalware or endpoint protection software on all your home machines or commonly referred to as an antivirus. You could get good antivirus software to share with your family members for an annual subscription of 4 - 5 hundred Pula which is a small price to pay for the risks of not having one or if you are really low on budget, at least install a free version, but like they say - there is no such thing as free but better to have something rather than nothing.

Ensure that your Operating System is patched to the latest software/security patches. It’s just best to set your computer to auto install the latest updates whenever they are available. Also ensure that your antivirus software is updated regularly as well, which is what you get from the annual subscription.

Backing up your data is best practice everywhere, invest in a portable hard drive and keep all your important data backed up on a hard drive not only to protect yourself should your computer crash but to also to protect yourself from ransomware attacks- because if you have the data backed up you do not need to pay any ransom should your computer be attacked and its data is encrypted.

On your home wi-fi modem- change your password regularly so the device itself is not hacked and have an attacker sniffing all your personal data. Always insist in entering the wi-fi password for your friends and family. Don’t just give them the password.

Most modems have some basic firewalling features so if you are feeling adventurous you can read up and play around with these. You can also ask someone with basic IT knowledge to help you set up the modem such that only devices that you know can connect to the wi-fi by using MAC filtering.

Always Use strong passwords for everything that you access.

There are arguments both for and against password manager applications like LastPass or Vault etc, but personally I use a password managers except for my online banking passwords which are always stored in my head because honestly it’s a little impractical to use unique passwords for everything that you access and to change these passwords regularly and still be expected to remember ALL these unique passwords, so rather remember one really strong password for your password manager that you change regularly which encrypts and stores all you other passwords except your banking passwords. But never ever write these passwords down, whether on your phone or in your diary.

Where possible always use 2 Factor Authentication if it is supported by the site you are accessing.

* Theo Bogatsu is a Network Security Engineer at BOFINET

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