Nothing is more important in this year’s cybersecurity month, than a focus on ways to cyber secure one’s home and office as working, learning and connecting virtually has become the new normal amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Indeed, Covid-19 has made working from home the order of the day, and that has given rise to the need for businesses to establish digital links between the office and homes of individual workers via cyberspace for work to go on, while ensuring employer safety.
This gives no business comfort, because in doing so, they risk exposing trade secrets and classified information to the outside world through transfer of information between the office and the home.
Whereas working from home was initially viewed as something that was going to impact productivity negatively, it has proven rather beneficial to many businesses, in that, when people work from home, they tend to work even beyond normal working hours, while attending to other home responsibilities.
But it still does not take away the security risk that could pose to businesses. There are however very simple ways to secure homes and office, as well as the cyberspace that facilitate communication between the two locations to prevent hacks and interception of classified information.
Beside the compelling reason for the working from home to remain amid Covid-19, the new normal now is digital and virtual; so many businesses and individual continue to do many hitherto offline financial transactions, not online.
This obviously comes with its own risks of individuals and businesses having their bank and or mobile money wallets details exposed to cyberfraudsters if not well protected.
Telecoms market leader, MTN Ghana has therefore put forward a number of ways Ghanaians could effectively secure their homes and offices and prevent any digital exposure and a compromise of the cyberspace between the office and the home.
Firstly, MTN emphasizes the need for one to secure their wireless networks by changing the default administrator password to one’s internet router or any wireless access point, and also give each device and online account its own unique password.
“Use a strong and unique password for each device and online account to make it difficult for outsiders to hack you device and or online account and access your vital information,” it said.
It also urges Ghanaian to ensure that they know all the devices connected to their wireless home network and be sure all those devices are trust.
This is important because with a wireless home network like the MTN TurboNet for instance, several individual devices like phones, tablets, laptops and even smart televisions could be connected to it. Sometimes even visitors are given the access to the wireless network and any of the devices could be doing any activity that can pose a risk to others.
Indeed, a visitor’s device connected to the TurboNet of this writer once did an online transaction payable with airtime and the system charged the fee, not the airtime of the person who did the transaction, but on the airtime on the TurboNet without the knowledge of yours truly. So it is important to know what each connected device is doing at any time.
It is also important, according to MTN, to ensure regular backup of important information so that one can always have access to missing information incase of a hack or any challenges.
A number of ways to back include saving information on Google Drive. iCloud and or other online channels like in one’s email. The way to do this back ups can be found in phone settings, depending on the phone one uses. What to do is to do a Google Search on “how to backup information online” and follow the lead to do so.
You are the shield
It is important to remember that fraudster often capitalize on social engineering rather than technical know-how to commit their fraudster. In other words, the attack is mostly targeted at the individual, rather than the networks complex technical platform.
In many experiences today, mobile money fraud, WhatsApp account hacks and many others are targeted at individuals and the fraudsters only succeed when the individual display naivity, gullibility and or greed.
So the best shield or protection for each person online is the person himself. Each person needs to be vigilant and highly alert to hack and fraud attempts, which come hard on daily basis and in different forms.
MTN therefore proposes a few simple tips to enable Ghanaians be on the alert regularly and avoid becoming victims of cyber fraud.
No one is off limits
The first thing to do is to avoid the wrong mindset that says “it can’t happen to me”. No one is off limits. In less than one week, yours truly had three attempts by fraudsters seeking to hijack my WhatsApp account.
A former telecoms executive recently made a post of Facebook telling of how her mobile money wallet and WhatsApp accounts were hacked by a clever fraudster pretending to be a staff of a telco. The fraudster capitalized solely on her gullibility by making her trust him. She only realized it after they had done some damage to her. No one is off limits!
Secondly, use two-step verification on all your online accounts – WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and others. What this does is that whenever someone tries to hack your account, the service provide would always send you a secret code (often six digits) and inform you that your account is being re-set. The fraudster would call you and pretend to be helping you by asking you to mention the code to to them. But NEVER-repeat-NEVER mention the secret code to them or anyone for that matter. If you do, your account is gone for good.
Some people are fond of clicking every link they see online – whether on WhatsApp, Facebook, email, Twitter and what-have-you. It is important to be circumspect on what links to click because several of those link can lead to one’s important details being hacked, or a subscription to some service that you are not even interested in.
A lot of those links are bots created to use you to get the contact details of your friends on social media for someone’s selfish end. So when you click the link and follow the instructions, it will then ask you to forward the link to several group platforms and individuals in order to win a prize. But the prize never comes. However, the people behind the bot would have gained access to all the contacts you sent the link to.
Limit online information sharing
Since Covid, the world has gone virtual and so people find it very compelling to live their lives online rather than connect to people physically. This has given rise to the situation where individuals tend to share almost everything about themselves with faceless “friends” online. But that is risky because people are not necessarily who they claim to be on social media.
There are several female social media accounts that belong to males pretending to be females; and there are several pedophiles pretending to be children online with the aim to trap children and abuse them. It is therefore important to limit what information you share about yourself online, for your own protection.
Again, several people have had their homes burgled because they posted pictures of a family trip on social media. Those kinds of pictures give criminals information that you are not at home so they can break in and have field day. One way to prevent such attacks on your home is to post those family trip pictures only after you have returned from the trip.
As simple and easy as the foregoing cybersecurity tips may sound, they are key to your protection online and strictly adhering to them will save you from becoming a victim of busy fraudsters who are constant looking for the next gullible person to feed on.