‘Common sense is the easiest way to thwart cyber crimes’

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APPLYING common sense against scams, keeping software updated and employing strong, unique passwords are the easiest ways for people to protect themselves online, according to an international cyber security expert.

Training Director at the SANS Institute Lance Spitzner, who was in the Sultanate to deliver a talk on Monday, said that maintaining basic security measures can mitigate risks significantly as cyber criminals often use the “easiest measures” when targeting large groups of the population.

“Organisations and individuals need to focus on the basics. Attackers have learnt that the easiest way to bypass security technology is to trick the user into giving them critical information like passwords and credit card details,” he said.

“Some of the most common phishing methods are through emails, or getting people to click on links based on the latest news,” he said.

Clicking on these links will take a user to a malicious website that will hack into their computer.

Other scams will claim to offer a monetary reward, while more sophisticated scams will pose as an organisation or even the company the target works for in order to secure valuable personal information.

“The greatest defence against attackers is the user. Be suspicious and use common sense, and you will be able to spot and stop most attacks,” he said.

Spitzner also added that cyber criminals are constantly looking for vulnerabilities in technology, which they use special programmes to exploit, allowing them to hack into whatever technology is connected to a network.

“Make sure your computers, mobile devices, apps and anything else connected to a network is running the latest software,” he said, adding that most companies work hard to keep technology up-to-date to prevent attacks.

“Once a vulnerability is made known, IT companies will create a patch to fix it and release it to the public. By updating your devices, you make it much harder for someone to hack you.”

Using a different password for different accounts and services is also critical, ensuring that if one is compromised, all others remain safe. Longer passwords, which combine letters, some capitalised, together with numbers offer a higher degree of protection.

Spitzner was in the Sultanate to promote SANS’s Securing the Human, a training product which offers “high-impact security awareness” to the common user.

His presentation at the Empire Hotel & Country Club was attended by IT representatives from several government and private organisations.

The Brunei Times