Two bold reporters, Julia and Ruth, armed only with basic computer know-how and a thirst for knowledge went along to the Cambridge Network “Keeping your computer safe, at home or in the workplace” with Michael Yardley. He is the IT and systems manager at Cambridge Enterprise Ltd, University of Cambridge, so had some fascinating insight into the topic. Julia and Ruth come from different backgrounds and have different experiences of internet scammers. Here they discuss their findings and share some of the tops tips they learned.
R: What impressed both of us from the talk was the amount of information and just how sophisticated the attacks can be.
J: I’ve had to handle a lot of phishing cases before as I worked in customer service for a big company. We were regularly attacked by fraudsters who even went as far as setting up a fake call center to trick our customers. For me the biggest surprise was learning more about ransomware, where a virus encrypts all the data and only releases it in upon receipt of cash.
R: The variety of different types of attack possible was made really clear. It is amazing how big an impact it can have on a business. A virus can so quickly infect not only the computer the email was opened on but also everything networked with it. The examples used were universities and even hospitals locked and held hostage with ransomware. Life and death!
J: Scammers aren’t always after money either. Some are after data, often to get money. Some hackers just like the challenge of cracking a security system or creating havoc for fun.
R: One thing that Michael Yardley made clear is that it can happen to anyone. As the course description said: “This session is useful to anyone using a computer connected to the internet.” There were so many examples of big losses, even for small companies. Having access to online banking or a website blocked even for a day can result in huge financial losses.
J: It wasn’t just in a business contact either. A personal attack can cost a lot or lose vital data. It can make as big a difference to on individual who needs to pay a bill or contact someone as it can for a business of any size.
R: There are things we can look for. Everyone can take small steps to prevent potentially huge losses from happening. I got an email today which thanks to the session I was able to recognise as a scam. It didn’t look authentic. The images and formatting were a bit rubbish. Thanks to the information I had the confidence to trust my instincts and delete it.
J: Spelling and grammar mistakes are big clues that there an email could be malicious. You can also check if they are from weird or unusual email addresses.
R: Check where it is sent from too. Some hackers will log into your colleague’s email account or create a similar sounding email account to contact you. If it doesn’t sound like them or is sent from a make of phone they don’t own then the safest thing to do is talk to them and check.
The conclusion from both of Ruth and Julia? Learn as much as you can. By recognising potential security risks you can avoid a lot of stress: damaged reputation, loss of data and huge financial costs. They also recommend you keep an eye out for other Cambridge Network events on cyber security.