There is a predator lurking in the grass. Can you spot it?
Every time I hear a story of a hacked website or a malware ripping computers apart I look around with pity. Thousands fall by my side and I remain standing; unscathed. This is not by chance. I have spent the past 12 years teaching myself to be hack proof.
Starting with today and over the next coming days and weeks I will share some of these nuggets with you. Today I will share with you some of the fables I learnt as I was growing up in my rural home.
Some nights when we were young, we would sit in the fading light of our kitchen in a circle around the dying fire as we listened with undivided attention to my father and mother’s stories.
They would tell stories of cunning hyenas wreaking havoc across the the savanna. Predators stealthily stalking unsuspecting victims and dealing death’s blow with cold efficiency. The hare tricking the baboon one time too many than would seem possible. The baboon falling prey to these tricks with disheartening regularity. The tortoise outrunning the hare.
It would all be too easy to dismiss these stories of talking animals as infantile but from these fables I have managed, time and again to glean precious precepts that have served me well in my life. Some of these can be applied to the ICT world.
- You do not need to outrun a lion, you just need to run faster than everyone else. Often in the ICT world hackers go after the low hanging fruits. All you need to do is to make sure that your security is better than everyone else’s and you will be hack proof.
- Most lions don’t go out looking for humans or even animals to kill, you just happen to fall into their hunting ground. You don’t need to be a celebrity or a big company. Most hacks happen because you happen to fall in the hacker’s path maybe because you keep putting off updates and upgrades.
- There are monsters lurking out in all forests even the placid looking ones. Some people are so naive as to think that they are safe and their computers are safe because they don’t see evidence of malware activity on their network/computer until it’s too late. You will do well to always assume some hostile malware or hacker is after you
- You should quit being a baboon. One of my cousins keeps clicking on bait ads and infecting their laptop on a regular basis in ways that do not even seem possible. Only an idiot would believe that a website can tell their registry/hard drive needs fixing right? Yet people keep falling prey to these cheap tricks.
- Never close your eyes in the presence of a fox or a hyena. One of the things that most software crackers ask people to do is to disable their antivirus software so they can install the cracked software without problems. In those split seconds when your guard is down you will be got.
- A cheetah is always stealthy stalking you. If you have ever managed a website you will know that as soon as your server is connected to the internet someone will start gently probing it for weakness
- Always sleep in a tall tree and do not fall. If there is a tool out there that you can use to give yourself an edge please do so. Sure leopards(targeted hacks) can climb trees and scalp you but it would be worse for you if you sleep on the ground
- Educate yourself on the basics, we live in the digital world don’t be a moron. In one story the hare tells the baboon to roast his groundnuts before planting them so they will germinate well. The gullible baboon proceeds to do that with disastrous results. Common sense dictates roasted groundnuts do not germinate.
- Arm yourself. You stand a better chance if you carry a spear. Arm yourself with tools and knowledge and you will be safe.
- Choose a well traveled path and you will be spared an encounter with mythical creatures. The internet abounds with common wisdom such as choose a complex and strong password, don’t reuse a password, don’t write your password down etc. Follow these conventions and you shall live the hack proof life.
Any professional will tell you its simply not possible to make yourself technically unhackable. The only safe ship is the one that stays in the harbour. The only way to make your computer unhackable is to disconnect it from the internet, switch is off and grind it to dust. In these stories I also learnt that going on adventure is taking a risk. Taking sensible precautions will make it a worthwhile risk.
During my science lessons however I learnt the story of zinc roofing sheets. Only they are not made of zinc at all, they are really iron sheets coated with a thin layer of zinc. When the rain and rust comes it eats away at the zinc first. This is called galvanizing.Only years later after lots of rust will it get to the iron. A layer of paint on top of the zinc virtually precludes this from ever happening.
Hacking and creating malware requires resources. To live a hack proof life you only ever need to do two things: make it so hard to hack you that the benefits would not be worth it to the hacker. Second, make sure that you are better protected than the rest of the people and make them your zinc.
Over the next days,weeks and months I will share with you what over 12 years of research has taught me.
Image credit: travelingmarla.com