Cyber Security – Don’t Click That Link!

Computer Hacker

Not A Career Choice For Everyone

I really wonder what is the attraction to, or satisfaction with, sending round computer viruses.  It doesn’t strike me as a career choice with a consistent income stream for the participants.  I’m not sure spending your life employing what must be a considerable amount of intellect to developing something that only exists to cause a problem for somebody else can be that rewarding, unless you have a particularly strange mindset.

I get the bit about ransomware, the delivery of a bug that locks people out of their computers.  Those whose computers get infected with these bugs have a difficult choice – whether or not to pay the ransom.  I can understand why some do – but I’d never want to have the choice.

I also understand about so-called “Trojan” bugs that will start sending your keystrokes to people viewing your activity, or retain password details.  People can use these to steal your identity, access your online accounts – do a multiplicity of things that will cause you a number of problems.

That’s why I have always been pretty switched on when it comes to internet security – and I got my first account (with Compuserve no less) in 1996.

As a business owner, I am always worried about data security and the ability of my staff to use their computers.  That’s more complicated than it seems – especially as we have a network which can also be taken over by ransomware.  It’s generally accepted the NHS hacking incident earlier in 2017 was caused by a single member of staff clicking on a link in an email.  The NHS is one of the largest employers in the world.  Rather than castigate them for the occurrence as some did, I reflected on why it hadn’t happened more often.

I probably get about twenty attempts to “phish” my computer every day, even with  a decent suite of security software installed.  That’s not including the entreaties to liberate somebody from a jail, or assist with the recovery of an inheritance willed to me from a relative I never knew I had.  I have a simple rule – don’t click the link!  Unless I know you, no matter what the email subject is, even if it’s got past the anti virus software, a link will mean it is consigned to the bin.  To err on the side of caution, even if you are a bosom buddy of mine, an unexpected link will cause that mail to suffer the same fate.

Email Screenshot - Even The URL Looked Correct At First Glance...

Email Screenshot – Even The URL Looked Correct At First Glance…

Which is why I was really cross with myself on Wednesday.  You guessed it – one of the little blighters got through.  There was the email – purporting to be from BT Business, with my “Online Bill” linking to it.  I get a fair amount of mail from BT, so the arrival was not a cause for suspicion.  Even the sender’s URL was (at first glance) appropriate and given I was talking to my book keeper about the BT account at the time, I clicked – probably without enough thought.

A couple of seconds elapsed.

My browser didn’t open.

I hovered the pointer over the link and there was no sign of BT in the Alt Text.

I said a word my book keeper hasn’t heard me utter, then to her surprise, frantically pulled cables out of the back of my desktop – power, quickly followed by the ethernet cable connecting me to our network.

Trojan Virus - Eradicated!

The Trojan Virus We Found

A telephone conversation with our IT contractor put my mind at rest a little – I’d done the right thing by removing the cables to isolate the machine.  Some checks with colleagues and it was clear I hadn’t screwed up our network.

But the episode reinforced the message.  Cyber security is an issue that should be at the forefront of all our minds.  Even though after delivery to our IT Guru for a thorough going over and clearout (which identified the virus and established it hadn’t triggered because I had acted so quickly) the machine is back in use, I am reminded of the risks.

We dodged it this time.  But we have to do that every time.  Meanwhile, up in their bedrooms, or being coerced to work for an organised crime syndicate, the opposition are still at it.

(And if you are a BT customer – be careful of that “Online Bill”………………….