Hacked! It Absolutely Can Happen to You

Why don’t you have a solid, third-party, commercial security solution running on your machine right now? Here are a few of the answers I most commonly hear:

  1. I’m fine with whatever shipped on my system.
  2. Those antivirus programs are more dangerous than going with nothing.
  3. I’m not a high-priority target. No one would want my stuff.
  4. I don’t surf porn or open email attachments. I’m safe.
  5. What do I need protection from?
  6. I’m an expert. That stuff only happens to idiots and newbies.
  7. I’ve been meaning to do it when I have some time.
  8. It’s like a one and a million chance. It couldn’t possibly happen to me.

The list of excuses goes on. But I have probably already covered your top three. The fact of the matter is no matter how much in the news security issues are, we just aren’t motivated to do anything about them until we become a victim. The people who are evangelists about identity theft prevention are those who have been the victims of identity theft.

While there is a small dose of truth in all the above excuses, the bigger truth is that it absolutely can happen to you. Here’s why:

Any Unprotected Port in the Storm

99% of the time, you are absolutely correct when you say that the hackers are not interested in you. To further risk bruising your ego, you really aren’t that important. You, personally, are not on anyone’s target list.

But that is where the good news ends. A bot net is a type of hack that targets every unprotected machine to conscript it in the bot net army. Without your even being aware, your machine can be one of millions that are controlled by nefarious characters who use a network of hijacked computers to carry out attacks on more important targets, like banks, retail stores, celebrities, and governments.

Want to know why that reasonably powered Windows box runs so slow? If you have had it for a while, it is probably a lieutenant in the bot net army by now. No, they are not targeting you. But if you have an unprotected port, they will be happy to call it home.

A Mac Is Not an Invulnerable Suit of Armor

You’ve got a Mac? Cool! I’ve got one too. Guess what? Bad things can still happen to you. Grant it, the chances of being conscripted into that bot net army are low. But that does not begin to exhaust the trouble that can reach you, even on a Mac.

Let’s be clear. Some companies try to sell antivirus/anti-malware software to Mac users that really is unnecessary. These types of attacks have to be written specifically for the platform. You really are safe from most of it on a Mac. However, companies like Trend Micro still offer realistic antivirus for Mac packages that help guard against dangers. Even on a Mac, you may need software that:

  • Blocks Dangerous Websites
  • Protects Your Privacy on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn
  • Provides Safe Surfing

These vectors of attack have nothing to do with the operating system, and everything to do with the web. …And a tangled web it is.

You’re Not as Smart as You Think You Are

Finally, the number one reason big companies get hacked is because they are convinced that they, alone, have got it all figured out. They have convinced themselves that they are smarter than the hackers, and everyone else. They’re wrong. Just ask the Defense Department. United States Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts were hacked just days ago.

This would be less remarkable if it wasn’t for the fact that the same thing happened just two years ago. These are supposed to be some of the smartest people in the world. If the U.S. government is not smart enough to keep this stuff from happening, perhaps you should rethink your position on putting together a good, third-party security plan for your system.

Nate Ritter lives in Austin, Texas (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

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