October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and in this series of blogs we will be providing simple tips and tricks to help you and your staff remain ever vigilant against the threats that criminals pose to our digital lives.
This blog will look at apps, downloads and staying safe using your device.
Download and update
Irrespective of the device you are using to read this blog, you have apps, programs installed on that device. These apps make it a functioning device (operating system), and make it do something useful for you (apps and programs).
The first step then is to make sure you are getting your software form the right place. Suppose you think about this analogy, let us say you wanted to but a Ferrari. You could go to a Ferrari garage, and this is the same as going directly to the developer of the software, like getting Microsoft Office. You could buy your Ferrari from a car dealership who may also give you additional services, like checking the car over before you get your hands on it, this is like the Google Play, Apple App and Microsoft stores. The App stores have additional measures to check apps to make sure they are not malicious. You could buy your Ferrari from a man you met in a pub late one night who has a fantastic deal for you “cheap as chips” only to find it was a Ferrari that had crashed and it doesn’t work and has the engine missing and is a complete death-trap. This analogy is like getting your software from an unknown marketplace. You have no guarantees over the app, and you cannot tell if it is the original app and most importantly if it is a fake app made to look like the real one that is doing something more malicious in the background.
You would expect this to be quite rare, however, for those who are gamers, there are all sorts of mods and hacks we can download for games. These are unofficial add-ons, generally made by fans which enhance gameplay. However, we do not know; what else these add-ons are doing, what the security of these add-ons is like and who else now has access to our data.
Depending on the data source you look at, the average human makes errors between 5 to 30 times out of every hundred operations. Imagine then, the thousands of lines of code that go into software and apps, webpages and operating systems. The Windows 10 has around 50 million lines of code and Grand Theft Auto 5, approximately 30 million lines of code. Suppose we expect the developers to be less error-prone due to experience and the niche-ness of the software, that puts the number of errors in the Windows at around 2.5 million mistakes and GTA 5 at approximately 1.5 million errors. Developers are continually finding these bugs and squashing them. These fixes are released as app updates. Keep your software up to date as it therefore will stop bugs from ruining your day.
So, software has bugs and companies do try and fix those bugs. However, criminals aim to use those bugs to find ways to gain access to your devices. The bugs in the code can be used to leverage control and maybe allow an attacker to run their code as well. What you need to install is the version of the app with the least number of bugs. This goes for the apps that we use and the operating systems too. Set yourself a weekly reminder to log into your app stores and check for updates. While you are doing regular checks, check for any system updates too. Just remember that sometimes these updates will change functionality whilst also fixing bugs.
7 Habits of a Secure Person
Good habits are hard to do. Keeping on top of things always feel like such a mammoth task, and so we do not end up doing them. So, here is a simple list that you can do regularly to keep on top of those security tasks. Keep doing these tasks every week, and soon you will notice that there is less and less to do over time.
- Monday morning go through your apps on your phone and remove any that you do not use any more. It is incredible how much we have on our devices that we do not use any more. Each one is a different way an attacker can try and access your devices. While you are removing them, do not forget to ensure you delete all your data with those services.
- Monday evening when you get home, in that transition time from work to home, go to your app store and run any updates. Your devices can be doing these updates while you are saying hi to the family, saying hi to your pets etc.
- Tuesday is usually the day when Microsoft launches its main patches. Put some time in your day to check for updates but do not do them during the day. There is nothing like the stress of trying to prepare for a meeting, and the laptop suddenly reboots. Instead, check for updates, but do them overnight so that on Wednesday morning, you are ready to carry on.
- Wednesday is a good day to have a day off from IT. Just enjoy the middle of the week, enjoy this tech that is working better and better each week you get into these good habits.
- Thursday morning – go through your computer app store and run the updates. Some apps you need to launch, and then they tell you there is an update. So, launch everything and see if there are any updates. Hint, go to Help and about – you sometimes see the updates hidden in there!
- Thursday, time to re-evaluate how you use your main desktop or laptop devices. Like your phone, check which apps you are no longer using and remove them. You may also need to log onto websites to ensure you back up any data before removing your accounts for those services. The less apps, the less opportunity attackers have.
- Friday is the time to make sure that all your work documents are in the right places – stored and backed up so that if an attacker does somehow attack you, then you know your documents are safe. This is not just digital though, go through your desk and put all the paper away and if it is finished with and can be shredded then destroy it.
These are simple tips that anyone can do, from kids to non-techies to the most technically proficient of people. The reason why is that we all use devices, each with operating systems and apps so irrelevant of how technical you are, you still need to take care of your devices.