Understanding Cyber SecurityMarc Armstrong EN
One time, a few years ago, I was on a search for a software driver that would make my expensive game controller work with a particularly old game. The game was so old and obscure, in fact, that my search took me to what I personally like to think of as the; “unsafe web”, not to be confused with the dark web, that’s something else entirely… This is the Internet beyond all the most prominent and commonly visited websites. I honestly don’t recommend going to the unsafe web, unless you have decent virus protection software, and you’ll understand why in a moment.
I arrived at a website that claimed to have a driver that would do what I was looking for, but it really should have been a red flag that the website otherwise didn’t seem to have any interest in the old and obscure game at all. Regardless, I promptly downloaded the file and installed it. You see, when I get a bee in my bonnet about something, specifically computer related, I tend to not give up until the problem is solved. This can often lead to me being careless about the random files I thoughtlessly download.
Within seconds of me installing the file my computer slowed to a crawl. Window upon window of new programme sprang up on my monitor, many of which I had not even identify, since they were in a language I do not understand. It was the worst malware infection I had ever got, and took days to clean up. In fact, if my computer had been a person in the middle ages, it would likely simply have been put to death, since doctors would have declared them possessed by demons.
Cyber Security Is No Joke
The Internet is a great deal more secure than it has been in the past. Trust me, I know. Malware and Spyware software was much more common, and a person could pick it up relatively easy. Today any website worth its salt, and hoping to attract repeat visitors, will be free of such malicious software. But, it is still out there, make no mistake. Having some sort of virus protection on your system is a pretty damn good idea.
But, one thing I find to be rather interesting is how paranoid many modern users still are. My mother wont make purchases online, because she is terrified that her card details will be snagged by the obviously dozens of hackers waiting in the shadows, all salivating at the mouth to get their hands on her money. Caution is great, but I find that many still linger in the zone of being unnecessarily paranoid.
Contrary to popular belief, viruses cannot simply leap off the Internet onto your computer. It just doesn’t work like that. They must be installed, and this is generally done by piggy backing with another programme. You are certainly not going to install a malware programme willingly, so it has to either be snuck in with something you would install, or disguised to look like something else.
This is where virus protection programmes come in very handy; they scan everything being installed. A better level of protection is, however, not to install programmes from untrusted locations. Again, most mainstream websites will go to great effort to avoid this happening, since they want visitors coming back.
But what about those stories you hear about, where a person has their card details stolen, and lands up with nothing in their account? Again, this is largely misunderstood. Most who are hit in this way fall victim to an online phishing scam. Phishing is where a cyber thief gets a person’s card details via devious means. For example, they send an email disguised as a bank, asking the person to enter their card details for some or other reason. It can also be done by a keystroke recorder being installed onto a computer, which tracks what is being done on the keyboard, and will record sensitive details. See above about how such a thing might be installed.
The assumption most have is that online credit card transactions can simply be plucked out of the internet by hackers, probably thanks to movies about hackers. If a very talented and extremely well trained group of hackers did want to do such a thing, they would have to face off against some of the most insanely difficult to crack software ever conceived. Modern online casinos, for example, use encryption, the 128 bit SSL kind, which is basically like a chastity belt from the middle ages that no one has ever had a key for. It’s almost impossible to penetrate and getting in there would take, well, balls (and superhuman intelligence too of course).
When you initiate a transaction with a casino, the transfer is encrypted. If you want to break the encryption, you would have to guess the key. So, can a hacker guess the key? Certainly, if they had more time on their hands than exists. I would like to show you the number of possible keys for a 128 bit encryption. It looks like this;
In other words; and online transaction with a casino is a trillion times or so safer than drawing money from an ATM.
So, the moral of the story is don’t download things from dodgy websites, and by all means, let your mom use her credit card online- especially if she wants to play casino games.