FOR years information technology experts have been warning about the dangers of cyber attacks and for just as long most computer users have ignored them.
PCs, laptops, tablets and mobile phones have all become such an indispensable part of our lives that we take it for granted that they are secure.
Few of us truly give a second thought to the range of sensitive information we exchange on a daily basis and just who might be out there watching.
Sure, we have always known there is a chance our computers might fall victim to a virus and need to be restored to full health and functionality by an expert.
But so ignorant – willfully or otherwise – have we been to the consequences that we have made it very easy for hackers to get into our computers and make a mess.
Hands up all those who still have a password derived from the name of your favourite pet, football team, band, car or something else particular to your life?
Keep your hand in the air if, in order to meet a minimum password length requirement, you have whacked a couple of digits – perhaps the year of your birth – on the end.
And, finally, keep them raised if you commit the cardinal sin, according to those in the know, and use that same password for everything from your email account to internet banking.
If your hand is still up at the end of that little pop quiz you are especially vulnerable to attacks, however, the manner in which hackers are now targeting computers means no one is completely safe.
The rise of cryptolocking, where hackers steal, encrypt and then hold to ransom someone’s personal files, is proving a particularly effective tactic to prise money from victims.
In Bendigo, hackers were recently unsuccessful in extorting $1 million from a not-for-profit organisation, but did manage to get $400,000 from one private company.
But it is also the family computer that is at risk, with victims facing the very real prospect of precious photos or important documents being lost forever.
Given the priceless nature of items such as these, it is little wonder that so many people, out of sheer desperation, relent and pay the ransom.
No one is immune from a cyber attack – just ask the Australian Bureau of Statistics – but there are measures people can take.
- Ross Tyson, deputy editor