Your personal cyber security

Security​There is always something in the news regarding IT security – whether it’s the horrendously scary GO Zeus or remembering to cover your PIN code at the tills, all around us we are being warned about the impact of letting our guard down. But be honest, how many of us still think – It won’t happen to me?

That includes me. Without ever wanting to admit it, my ignorance relating to IT Security plays a part of my total lack of addressing my weaknesses.
But these are real threats and there are huge organised groups out there, incredibly smart and devious, that are ready to take advantage of vulnerable and unsuspecting folk. There are probably a million things that you can do to protect yourself, I sure as hell don’t know all of them – but below are some easy top tips to remember to keep you a little bit safer.
1. First rule – Don’t ever think ‘it won’t happen to me’. It can. Be vigilant and don’t ignore ‘strange’ things even if they seem small and insignificant at the time. If something looks suspicious, don’t ignore it.
2. An old favourite, but be careful when opening attachments or links in emails. If you don’t know the sender, or it looks suspicious – Don’t Click! A little known fact (and not something I am proud of) but I once opened a file from ‘DHL’ – a supplier at the time. I was lucky. My computer was contaminated with a programme that kept taking me to Wowcher or would download 100s of adverts every time I tried to do anything. Like I said, I was lucky it wasn’t something more malicious – but my computer still had to be sent away to get rebuilt and resulted in about 2 days downtime in total. And a lot of embarrassment. But imagine if that spread to the whole business…
3. Practice good password management. And that means, changing it regularly, using a good mix of characters, not using the same one on multiple sites. And don’t write them down. Thinking ‘what a nightmare’ to think of strong passwords and then remember them all? Here is a useful site to help you create memorable passwords.
4. It might sound obvious, but don’t leave your devices unattended. Your computer, tablet, phone etc – if you do have to leave them for any length of time, remember to either lock the keyboard, or lock them away. And this goes for USB sticks and flash drives – if there is something on it that’s valuable to you, then it is valuable. It takes just one opportunist to give you a complete nightmare day.
5. Backup Backup Backup!! My brother owns a Business Tech company, and tells me this is one of the most important things to remember. If it all goes a bit wrong and you find yourself with an empty hard drive – your files will be backed-up somewhere. But remember to do it. Mental note to self – remember to back up….
6. Be savvy about your browsing, and only use a device that belongs to you, and on a network you trust. Non secure networks will mean your data is vulnerable, and you will need to consider what it is you are doing. Make sure your firewalls are up to date, and if you do sign into your local Costa wifi, select it as a ‘Public’ network.
7. You can’t get away from Facebook, Twitter etc etc (I am not ‘with it’ enough to know all the different networks out there, but I am advised that there are many) but don’t forget that these are actually incredibly public, especially if you have not selected the right privacy settings. Therefore, be careful who you ‘link in’ with. If you don’t actually know the person / business you are connecting with, then be aware that they will now have access to a lot of personal information. Not to freak you out, but this will include where you went to school, when you are going on holiday, names of your kids …
8. And so to end on another old favourite – don’t ever give personal information to someone over the phone or internet unless you are 100% confident they are who they say they are. And in any case, if they are legit, you will never have to give this information out.
Hopefully, I haven’t completed messed you up, and this is just a reminder of what we already know. If you want to know more about how Cyber Security affects you, please contact us HERE with your query.
Stay safe people.

Freaked out by Google Ads?

I imagine you’ve noticed that when you’re browsing the web, there are a whole load of sites which have spookily well targeted adverts on them. They can be a bit overwhelming, sometimes, and lot of folks feel like it’s an invasion of their space. Imagine you’ve been browsing for new shoes on your and suddenly all of your Ads are trying to sell you shoes…

It’s obvious why companies do this, and how Google can make their money. If they know you’re looking at shoes, it’s not a big leap to realise that if they push some adverts under your nose you’re more likely to click and buy them.

But did you know you can “opt out” of this targeting? It’s pretty easy, too, at least with Google ads. There’s a wee video guide from Google just below, but if you don’t have the time or the inclination (insert appropriate Big Ben/Tower of Pisa joke here) then just click here to go straight to your own Web Ads Preference page, or here. Bear in mind that you’ll probably see more ads if you opt out on the search front, but they won’t be quite so targeted at you. According to Google, users who remain “opted in” to the targeted Search ads are 42% more likely to click on one!

For those of you with the curiosity as to how Google makes this work, they use cookies to keep tabs on the sites that you’re visiting, and so can glean a fairly decent understanding of the sort of things you’re looking for – either on a regular basis, or for a concentrated period My targeted ads are, unsurprisingly, virtually all for IT products and services.

Another trick you can use if you want to keep the targeted adverts live, but simply not to register that you’re looking at certain things (engagement rings, for example, gents) then you can start up a private browsing session and then your activity (probably) won’t be tracked and applied to your targeted Ad profile. Phew. I shall sleep easy tonight.