By Dr Christopher Richardson, Head of BU Cyber Security Unit
Criminality in the cloud is a big issue. You only have to pick up a paper or log on to Twitter to find examples, like the intrusion of Apple’s iCloud and the insensitive and disgraceful dissemination of celebrity private and intimate photographs.
While the celebrity photo hacking is a high profile example, it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cyber hacking. Users of the popular photo messaging service, Snapchat, who used an unofficial third-party app to circumvent the anti-save function have also fallen victim to a malicious attack whereby more than 100,000 videos and photos were released online.
Last month, tens of thousands of people received an email which appeared to be from BH Live, the Bournemouth entertainment company, claiming they had booked tickets to see a pantomime at the Bournemouth Pavilion. The ‘Peter Pan virus’ brought the issue of cyber security a bit closer to home, showing even smaller (Dorset-based) companies are not immune. The perpetrators used a basic phishing technique to lure recipients to open the attachment, which installed a virus capable of stealing passwords and sensitive personal information.
These recent high profile hacks stress the importance of ensuring effective cyber security measures are in place for businesses and for individuals. Naivety is not a claim that can be made by internet users anymore – this is a global issue, in the public consciousness, and it needs to be addressed.
The need for greater cyber security awareness has been widely recognised, specifically in the USA and Europe, as October has been dubbed the official Cyber Security Awareness Month to encourage vigilance and protection by all computer users.
In the UK, the Government has created a Cyber Security Strategy to show how the UK will support businesses, protect national security and safeguard the public's way of life by building a more trusted and resilient digital environment.
Businesses are the biggest victims of cyber-crime and the Government has the objective of making the UK one of the most secure places in the world to do business in cyberspace. As a result, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has pioneered a Cyber Essentials programme for safer online business and future online commerce with national and local government agencies.
Crime is crime, whether it takes place in the street or online, and there has never been a greater need for all internet users to be aware of cyber-crime. But how can you keep yourself safe?
Here are Bournemouth University (BU) Cyber Security Unit top tips for staying safe online:
• Don’t use a single password for all online accounts: Protect your personal information by creating long, strong and unique passwords that combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols.
• Don’t click on unsafe links: Clicking on links in emails, tweets, posts and online advertising is a common way for cyber criminals to compromise your computer. Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately or request personal information. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it’s not true!
• Connect to secure Wi-Fi: Setting up and connecting to password-protected or private Wi-Fi hotspots will limit who can access your computer.
• Stay updated: Keeping your security software, web browser and operating system current and updated is the best defence against viruses, malware and other online threats.
• Think before you act: Remember that what you do online can affect your reputation at home, at work and in larger society. Carefully consider whether what you are posting or sharing is appropriate.
• Protect your wallet: Online banking and shopping has become an everyday occurrence for many. Double check that the sites you use are security enabled. Look for web addresses that start with https:// (this means the site goes the extra mile to help secure your information).
Cyber-crime is not a flash in the pan, but a persistent and malicious problem. By being aware and vigilant we can limit the effectiveness and consequences of online crime and remain safer in our online world.
If you would like further information, please contact the BU Cyber Security Unit at 01202 962 557 or on our website at https://bucsu.bournemouth.ac.uk/ or follow us on Twitter @BUCyberSecurity.