Sometimes you have to enter the mind of a predator in order to gain a clearer understanding of your own vulnerabilities. If you've ever watched shows like "It Takes A Thief" or "To Catch a Predator" you know exactly what I'm getting at. After this week's most recent ransomeware attack headline it's not hard to see how easy it is to think of malware in the abstract.
It's so easy to forget that behind these automated attacks are real people. You know - hackers. But even knowing this, the way we think of hackers is romanticized and shrouded in mystery thanks to Hollywood. Don't be fooled by the too cool to be cruel image you've been spoon fed by the movies. Hackers are smart criminals with an aggressive agenda.
The good news is, if you learn what's on their agenda you can protect yourself. So here are five things that can be found there.
1. Hackers want you to believe you are safe
The more safe you think you are, the less likely you are to be wary of suspicious activity, the less likely you are to be aware of wholes in your "security system," and the less likely you are to invest in taking additional safety precautions.
Some criminals looks for these wholes or lapses in judgement while other criminals get what they want by appearing friendly. Keep in mind that malware, particularly viruses and ransomeware, can come wrapped in sheep's wool. That's why it is paramount that you always trust the integrity of the software you download or install from the internet.
2. New doesn't always mean better
We are comforted whenever we hear that our security system is new or we have an updated anti-virus program. Just like anything else that's new, it's impossible to know what kinds of glitches or bugs your security software has until it's been confronted by a few unforeseen challenges. These instances give hackers the perfect opportunity to go on the offensive and see what your security protocol is made of before you've had a chance to fix any problems. By having blind confidence in your security system simply because it is new or updated, you could be opening yourself up to attack.
3. Hackers want you to be lazy
If you use the same password for every site or allow applications like Google and LastPass to save all your passwords to save you the trouble of remembering them, you're could be making yourself an easy target.
It's always best to have a unique password for everything you log into, but if you decide to keep using a password manager learn where your information is stored and make sure it's not in the cloud or on the web.
4. They are constantly upping their game
The software or "bugs" that hackers use to compromise our systems are literally like viruses. And like real viruses they are constantly evolving to challenge the new safety nets we put in place to protect ourselves. We are in a race with them that will likely never end, trying to outsmart the other by thinking ahead. A lot of the time we beat them at their own game, but we often lose too and that's when it's hard to admit when we've been outwitted.
5. They may have worked for the same companies that they target
Hackers are IT professionals, programmers, and software engineers. It's not uncommon for hackers to have years of experience learning the security protocols and weaknesses of a company that they worked for in the past only to use the knowledge they gained to their criminal advantage in the future.
Sometimes we have to take an uncomfortable look at our own practices in order to make better decisions about our online safety. It's easy to blame predators when we've been taken advantage of, but in understanding where our own precautions fall short we are able to take more control of our security moving forward