Protect yourself from cyberattacks

Cybercriminals rely on finding security vulnerabilities in existing technology, which they can then exploit in order to get control of your machine and steal information.

Sunday, 7th August 2016, 6:53 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 3:12 am
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Tech companies do their best to fix security vulnerabilities when they are discovered, which means updating your computing devices quickly is really important. It isn’t just me saying that, but also the UK government is urging people to make #quickupdates following advice from CESG (the cyber security arm of GCHQ) which states that the most effective way to protect yourself from cyberattack is to ensure your devices have the latest software patches.

Last year there were an estimated 2 million cybercrime offences, according to figures released by the ONS (Office for National Statistics). Given that high number, would it surprise you to learn an Ipsos MORI study revealed that 68% of mobile phone users don’t update their phone as soon as updates are available and 64% of computer users (desktops and laptops) don’t update their computers as soon as possible.

A high proportion of respondents said that they thought downloading updates was ‘too time consuming.’ Well the answer to that problem is to make time. If you see the icon appear in Windows prompting you to restart and install updates, do it and then do something else while it updates. If you update regularly, it shouldn’t even take that long each time.

Now speaking of Windows, the free upgrade to Windows 10 is now no longer free. If you are still using Windows 7 or 8/8.1, you can still upgrade, but it will cost you. You can stay on your current version of Windows for some time to come and expect to receive updates, so don’t suddenly panic that your machine is vulnerable. Microsoft will stop supporting those older versions one day, just as they did with Windows XP. Then it is time for you to consider an alternative.

There are three options open to you. 1. Buy a new computer (expensive). 2. Pay for the upgrade to Windows 10 (upto £189.99 for Pro). 3. Install Linux (free). One big decision making factor will be the age of your computer. If your hardware is old, you may well be better off replacing it with something new.

I mentioned Linux, which has a few advantages. Windows as you are familiar with, is susceptible to infections by malware (viruses, adware, spyware, etc.), whereas Linux is practically invulnerable to infection. Part of that is down to the dominance of Windows, making it a big fat target, but it is also down to the Linux architecture making it extremely hard to hack. Another advantage with Linux (from my experience using Ubuntu), is that updates are generally installed without having to restart your machine. When a restart is needed, it is nice and quick, unlike a certain other operating system that spends ages ‘configuring updates’.

Whatever you use, make it a habit to stay up to date with the latest security patches.