How Not to Be…A Technology Victim

Some crazy stuff happened this month in the tech world, crazy stuff. First, after nearly 7 years of threatening, Microsoft managed to actually stop support of Windows XP and there was of course much rejoicing – for those of us that have stopped using XP about seven years ago; next came the horrible, terrible, no good HeartBleed bug came about and put the Internet in a tizzy, as users – personal and professional alike – rushed to make sure their info and logins hadn’t been hacked. And just today, everyone’s favorite browser Internet Explorer showed that it still has room for even more vulnerabilities than we had originally thought. 

If you remember from way back when, I had this little series going on how we freelancers can learn not to be like those crazy companies we work for or use, so once again readers, I bring you another How Not To Be! This isn’t just aimed at my freelancing brethren, but to anyone who owns any type of electronic or technical device.

 

UPDATE YOUR SYSTEMS!

So, I seriously can’t stress this enough.

I know that program you have will only work on XP, but I’m sure there are better programs and in some cases, said programs have updated to work with the newer systems. As you can see from both the ending support for XP, plus that of the IE hack, outdated systems are the biggest targets for hackers; why? Because they know that you haven’t updated your system and in many ways, probably don’t plan to and that is their way in. But I like XP, you yell! It’s stable! It’s familiar! It’s…outdated.

This is especially true and important for you, the freelancer, who is most likely doing business on said XP machine. With no support for XP, you aren’t getting Windows updates, such as those that would help to fix that vulnerability that’s hanging out in IE or any vulnerability that your system is at risk for. What that means is, you’re opening yourself up to malware, spyware, and viruses, especially those that like to steal information, such as client records or information.

 

Update Your Programs

I work in tech support and while I often get calls from people needing help with the company’s equipment, it’s a completely different ball game when it comes to getting help for the very programs that I need in order to help people. I’m looking at you, tech companies – you are by far the worse when it comes to keeping your systems and programs updated to run on new architecture; the group of people screaming the loudest about not only XP’s ending support, but HeartBleed are those of companies and ironically, technical companies that provide software for their users and employees.

Even now, companies are scrambling to either change their systems over or are willing to shell out more money in order to keep supporting an operating system that is thirteen years old. I don’t think I even still have anything that is thirteen years old at this point, though if I do, it’s sentimental and something that is probably sitting in my closet or a box somewhere; basically, I’m not using it anymore. The announcement Microsoft gave was years ago, years ago, so there is absolutely no excuse for IT departments to not have seen this coming. Now granted, Windows Vista was totally not XP, wasn’t even close to being anything like XP and ironically, it suffered the same way Windows 8 is now. But there’s Windows 7 – the prettiness of Vista and the stability of XP; in fact, with the professional/ultimate version, there was an XP mode so that people can still use those old XP programs.

 

Change Your Passwords

I hate to admit it, but I am horrible at this myself. Look, I’m with you – I hate that I have, and need, so many passwords; I understand the reasoning for it, I do, but I hate that I have to change them frequently. But as HeartBleed demonstrated, it’s still too easy for a hacker to figure out a password. Think it can’t happen to you? Read the ever important story of Mat Honan, a tech writer whose story of an epic hack made news two years ago. Why was it important? Forget that Honan is a respected tech writer for both Gizmodo and Wired – respected tech magazines, the fact that just simply knowing a few pieces of information is all a hacker needs in order to get into every account you’ve ever had should be what you take away.

In Honan’s case, all the hacker had to do was call up Apple and request a password reset for the account and all he needed was the billing address and last four of a credit card number. Billing addresses are easy, but not credit card numbers and this is where persistence on the hacker’s part played off. How’d he get the credit card number? Simple – he called up Amazon, had them add him on the account, got a reset password, and was able to look up the information. Apple and Amazon had just happily given out information to someone who wasn’t Honan and that was all he needed. From there, deleting everything on Honan’s Apple account was easy and Honan – like most of us – had his Google account linked to Apple, so the hacker was able to get into that too.

In short, in the matter of say thirty minutes, a hacker was able to destroy several accounts of Honan’s, not to mention gained access to Honan’s Twitter account – the one he also used for work – and post all types of things as though he was the writer.

The upside to this tale is that it showcased the complete lack of security by tech companies and brought about some changes from them as well. After this, Google starting using two-step verification, which lead to companies like Microsoft and Yahoo following suit. I use the verification on Google, which works like a dream for both my computers and my phone. And don’t be lazy on the passwords – stop with the whole dog’s name, name of your child, blah blah. Yes, it’s a hassle, but it’s not gonna be that much trouble when you don’t have your account hacked, will it? Back in the day, I had my Yahoo email account hacked all because my password was easily guessed. There are password managers, like Last Pass, that can help you create strong passwords and even remember them for you.

 

Backups. Backups. BACKUPS!

Last, but not least, backup your files. I know some of you aren’t big fans of cloud storage, but when you get a virus that requires you to reformat your computer, it’s better to have them on the web than to not have them at all. Twice, I caught a virus back in the day and twice I had to completely wipe my system, which meant anything that I was working on, any movies, any music, all gone. The movies and music were easily replaced, but not the writing; oh, recreation is fine and all, but it’s never the same as when you first wrote it.

Even if you don’t use cloud storage, getting a second hard drive is so much cheaper now that there’s really no reason not to have some sort of backup system. This is especially and extremely important if you’re freelancing – no client wants to hear how your computer crashed and the hours and days of work that you had done are now gone or that your laptop was just stolen, and so was their information. No. Don’t get into that position.

Technology is still changing, but it’s not completely secure yet, which means you need to be doing your part in keeping your things secure. You lock your doors when you leave town, right? So why do you post your address on Facebook? Why are you still writing down your passwords? Believe me, I wouldn’t lecture if I haven’t been in the same boat and believe me, it’s a very leaky raft that sunk faster than the Titanic.

Stay afloat, my friends!

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About Writer 66

Writing since the age of seven, managed to get a job as a copy writer, while enjoying the unsung awesomeness as a creative fan fic writer.

Posted on April 28, 2014, in Beginnings, security, The Business Side and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Nice article! I would also recommend trying Sticky Password manager, which I use for years and works for me great – http://www.stickypassword.com

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