How not to get hacked in 2019

Most of us barely remember when Paris Hilton’s BlackBerry was hacked back in 2005 because truth be told, most of us didn’t have much that was worth hacking on our phones back then.

It was, simply put, a simpler life, so it was mainly those with celebrity address books who were most at risk. Cut to a decade or so later, and during the charmingly named ‘The Fappening’ (don’t Google it), celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, Gabrielle Union, Scarlett Johansson and hundreds of Hollywood celebs, had their phones hacked – and their nudes exposed.

 

By now, the situation felt a little more relatable: even those of us who aren’t famous actresses usually have something that’s racy, or awkward, or just plain personal on our smartphones. It’s easy to say that the simple solution isn’t to take naked pictures of yourself, but that’s a little absurd.

You’re an adult who should be allowed to take whatever harmless pictures you choose. Besides, if you’re anything like me, there’s plenty of other things on your phone to be embarrassed about, like your bank balance. No one’s immune: in February, tech billionaire Jeff Bezos had his privacy compromised when a nude image of him was shared by a man named, um, Pecker (you couldn’t make this stuff up).

 

Even seemingly untouchable tech giant Google had to shut down its Google+ service after a security breach. Meanwhile, in one of the many profound ironies that 2018 gave us, the world at large discovered that Japan’s Minister of Cybersecurity, Yoshitaka Sakurada, had in fact never used a computer.

Outside of being extraordinarily underqualified, he’s as secure as one could be. But for those of us who plan to remain immersed in the digital world, it pays to avoid being part of the wilfully ignorant majority who could more easily imagine themselves the victim of a shark attack than a cyber-attack. Last year, millions of South Africans were the victim of cybercrime, not to mention governments, hospitals and hotel chains. These are staggering numbers and scary ideas, all making two things clear: those who hold your data don’t really care if it’s stolen, and those who steal it have gotten very good at doing so.

 

Why would anyone want to hack me? Chances are, they don’t. Bad news: that doesn’t matter. While high-profile targets are chosen for the blackmail potential of their private data, in your case a hacker is more likely to simply take control of one of your accounts.

Hackers use automated protocols (codes), called botnets, that can actively and consistently run without their presence in order to sweep open connections for vulnerabilities, like an unchanged password or a piece of outdated software, which they can then exploit in order to run their own code on your system. You might get hacked and not even know it, with many of these attacks being done with the intention of stealthily gathering data about its victims that can either be sold

 

Tech Terms You Need To Know

IP Address

This is your digital address. Much like your home address, it can tell someone where you are. Each one is unique and tied to the router you’re using.

 

VPN

A Virtual Private Network is a system of servers that spans the globe, allowing you to use them as a proxy. This just means that if anyone looks for your IP address using data that’s invisibly attached to material you put online, they won’t see it. Instead, they’ll see the IP address of the server, whether it’s in the North West or Norway.

 

Threat Model

A term hackers use to describe the overall landscape of your personal cybersecurity: where threats are likely to come from and what they’re likely to do. Unless you’re a political dissident, famous or incredibly wealthy, your threat model is probably quite limited

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