The Wanna Cry ransomeware hack was a fascinating combination of brilliant super villain and idiot sidekick. It was not your basic hack that could have been pulled off by anyone. Some say there were shadowy governments behind the exploit. It was being hoarded in one of the US governments own shadowy agencies.
But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t also super simple when it came to execution. It was not some zero-day exploit that took over your system without any input from the user. The exploit required a user to make exactly the kind of error that corporations and tech media have been warning against for years.
There are so many simple precautions that could have stopped this thing in its tracks before a single machine was infected. It could have been stopped by the end user, the tech oligopolies, and everyone throughout the process. Furthermore, each party had access to multiple ways of stopping it.
While governments, including yours, have highly technical exploits and hacks at the ready, it is the simple hacks performed by everyday bad actors that you have to worry about the most. Here are a few of them, and how you can protect yourself against them:
The Poison Email
Email is bad. And to the extent that you can, you should stop using it. Almost every hack that can be done on a computer is done through email. We know this because of services provided by the top data recovery companies.
It is not a matter of how to find a data recovery company, but why. It is not always a matter of intentional corporate espionage. It is just as often poor training. Mobile device forensics can recover text messages, photos, email, browser history, and even deleted messages.
But don’t wait until there is a breach. Now is the time to do more training. Never open email attachments. And don’t send email attachments. There are better ways to share large files. Never click on a link inside of an email. If it is from a company wanting you to log in, go to your browser and log in from there. And never interact with anyone with email that you don’t personally know.
Teach your parents to be suspicious of all email. And set them up with better tools such as secure messaging. Treat email like poison that must be handled with care, and avoided when at all possible. By doing so, you will be eliminating most of your attack vector.
Screens Advertise Your Secrets
Apple makes some of the most vivid and beautiful screens in the industry. They often boast of the wide viewing angle. The display on an Apple device can be appreciated from even the most extreme angles.
And that’s not a good thing when you are out and about. That is because there are people all around you. So whatever you can see on your screen, someone else can see. That includes user names, passwords, account information, contact information, and everything else you would rather not share.
The simplest of all hacks to pull off is called shoulder surfing. Some just call it visual hacking. It is real, and largely preventable. For every device with a screen, there is a screen shield that makes off-axis viewing all but impossible.
You should also use the fingerprint scanner to unlock your phone so no one can see you enter a passcode. You can defeat visual hacking mostly by just being aware of it.
Too Good to Be True
Most hacking schemes are just strait up cons. And the simplest cons are based on offering you something that is too good to be true. That work from home part time job that pays $300 per task is not real. And you did not win the Swedish lottery. The best way to inoculate yourself against scams is to become familiar with the top internet scams.
The most effective hacks are almost always the simplest ones. Protect yourself by treating email with suspicion. Be aware of visual hacking when in public. And remember your childhood advice: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.