The FBI IC3 unit that tracks Cyber Fraud has released statistics on Cyber breaches for 2017. They report that cyber fraud loss in 2017 totaled $1.42 billion with a 27.4% increase in breaches from 2016.
Cyber-attacks emanate from nation states seeking to steal trade secrets or infiltrate critical infrastructures like SCADA systems that control electrical grids. Other groups hack financial institutions to steal identities, or valuable account information.
Home offices and home computers are also susceptible to being hacked. In 2017, 66% of all breaches and hacks were the result of successful phishing attacks. Folks working at their home computers were targeted because they represented easy prey for the skilled hacker.
Computer hackers are like the lion on the Serengeti Plain. The lion stands on a mountain top surveying a herd of water buffalo. They are looking for the weakest buffalo in the herd before they attack. The hacker is looking for the weakest security link to attack his/her prey.
With that realization, we offer some suggestions on how to protect your home computer from being breached and successfully attacked.
- Install anti-virus and anti-malware software
- Set up automatic updates and patches
- Install a reputable firewall and have it professionally configured
- Remove unnecessary applications such as web cams etc.
- Change default passwords frequently and use dual authentication
- Install web security tools and use only trusted on line services
- Provide physical protection for your computer access
- Have some level of encryption such as wi-fi protected access or WPA2
- Backup data at staggered times daily
- Have an alternative back up battery source
To avoid phishing, pharming, and spear phishing attacks, do not open suspect emails and definitely do not click on a suspect attachment. Likewise, be wary of social engineering from a caller attempting to trick you into giving up your password or other identifying information.
It is unfortunate, but cyber thieves have been very successful in stealing information and converting that information into profit. We continue to see more sophisticated attacks and an increase in cyber fraud.
Apply a layered approach or defense in depth to your home computer and avoid being the weakest buffalo in the herd.
Ron Williams, CFS
United States Secret Service-Retired