How to deflect unrequited love from hackers this Valentine's Day
How to deflect unrequited love from hackers this Valentine's Day
Much like the cyber-world, Valentine's day is fraught with tension – think of the unwanted romantic advances of an admirer just like the attempts of a hacker to capture your attention. 

Just like a good love story, last year was full of twists and turns in the cyber-crime world. There were major outbreaks, new infection methods and the rapid evolution of the crypto-currency crime industry. With unwanted attention coming from so many angles, what can businesses do to ensure they successfully deflect hackers' advances? 

Do not open emails from unknown sources 

Love letters. OK, they may have been slightly outdated by online messaging, but the thrill of the envelope has led to many hearts a-flutter over the years. Some of that feeling, of course, comes from the fact that the contents are unknown to you. While this is fine for the average love note found on your desk or pushed through your letterbox, the risks of unknown content are far more immediate when delivered via email.  

Scammers and threat actors are looking to exploit this, in 2017 we saw a considerable amount of exploit methods favouring email distribution. Meaning that it is a clearly a method that works. 

These emails often contain PDF or Word attachments that are traps, links to malicious websites, or a gateway to accidentally downloading unwanted software like spyware. Malspam is often deployed via social engineering tactics – by appearing to be someone else – to get you to open the attachment or click a link in the message body.

Never download or view attachments from unknown senders and always treat them as suspicious unless the information exchange has knowingly been initiated by you. Practicing good habits when opening emails that are not from a trusted source will help you stay safe from the unwanted attention of cyber-criminals.

Install effective antivirus and antispam software

If you're heading out on that first date on Valentine's day, it's important to have all of your plans arranged beforehand. Tell people you live with where you're going, when you'll be back and what number they can reach you on – a line of security for peace of mind. Any forays out into the digital world need the same kind of back-up; making sure your antivirus software is up and running and that all updates are installed will give you some of that peace of mind when online. 

Installing security software that includes protection against spyware and ransomware will help ensure that your machine is covered. Having a layered-defence tactic and practicing basic computer hygiene are ways to be certain that your information is safe from the unsolicited attention cyber-criminals are showing you and your business. One way to protect and prevent yourself from ransomware is to invest in a cyber-security program with real-time protection that can thwart advanced attacks. This software does not need to cost a fortune, many cyber-security providers offer affordable packages and freemium models.

Share experiences

For every crush, breakup and nervous date, there's a parent, sibling or friend which has been through a similar situation that can give you some good advice. It's the same for the ever-increasingly active cyber-security community, we can use the advice of others to learn and grow. Collective knowledge and insights into the activity of hackers will shed light on the tactics they are using and stop them in their tracks. 

However, due to cyber-crime's infancy – in comparison to traditional forms of crime – there is still some reservation among legislators to recognise its financial and emotional impact. This often makes cyber-crime more difficult to prosecute, further adding to victims' feelings of helplessness. The different perception of the types of cyber-crime and the lasting effects it can have, has a significant impact on the way victims are treated. For instance, public shaming of victims is unproductive in the battle of prevention and protection. It also further encourages the reaction of paying for the silence of the perpetrators. We know nobody is immune to cyber-attacks. So, we must change how we deal with victims and treat it as a learning experience rather than a scolding. 

Like in any relationship, communication is key. Therefore, an honest and empathic environment, without fear of embarrassment or reprisal, will help encourage the flow of information and will prove invaluable in recognising vulnerabilities and potentially aid in the efforts of law enforcement.

Contributed by Justin Dolly, EVP, chief security officer and CIO at Malwarebytes.

*Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SC Media UK or Haymarket Media