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How To Stay Safe in an Interconnected World – PT. 1

'Toba Obaniyi 2

The Internet has made everything easier for most of us. You can now buy almost anything using your credit/debit card and it is delivered to your doorstep. With the introduction of Internet of Things (IoT), your CWAY dispenser unit may soon purchase water just before it is exhausted without you having to do anything! The possibilities are endless so, how do you stay safe in an interconnected world?

As things get easier and better, it also becomes easier for you to be a victim. In the past, you were only concerned about protecting your home, office, and car. Now, you have to pay attention to your online identity and protect your websites, online profiles, desktop and mobile devices, etc.

Do you think you can’t be a victim? Think again. The recent spread of ransomware has shown that anyone can be a victim and the outcome can be disastrous to the unprepared.

Don’t know what a ransomware is? How do you get prepared? What are the consequences? What the heck am I talking about? I am hoping this article will help explain the matter in the simplest manner possible.

Malware.

There are several ways you can get compromised on the Internet. For the purpose of our discussion, I will assume you have at least one device that accesses the Internet, a website or a social media account that is important to you.

One of the ways you can get compromised is if you get infected by malware. A malware is short for malicious software, and it refers to several types of hostile or intrusive software, including computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, scareware, and other malicious programs. I will describe the different common types of malware below:

  • Virus. A computer virus is a malicious software or code that replicates by modifying existing legitimate codes. The purpose of a virus is to affect the normal functioning of regular programs on say a computer or smartphone by inserting its own codes. Viruses were originally the most popular type of malware in the past and spread quite easily from infected connecting devices like flash drives, over networks and the Internet.
  • Worm. A computer worm replicates itself and spreads usually over networks. The major purpose of a worm is to spread to a point where it congests a computer network, and in some cases, fills up disk space of infected devices.
  • Trojan horse. A trojan horse is a malware that looks like a legitimate program while causing serious damage to infected devices. Trojan horses are easily spread through emails which include legitimate looking attachments that may seem like a Word document or zipped file which in reality is a malware that infects your device once it is executed.
  • Ransomware. Ransomware is a malware that encrypts important files and folders and demands the victim to make payment to gain access to the encrypted content. In some cases, ransomware also threatens to disclose the encrypted content, especially when the content is embarrassing or otherwise private if payment is not made. Ransomware has become very popular due to recent popular infestations such as WannaCry and Petya.

Ransomware is gaining popularity because it is one of the easiest ways to make money from malware attacks. Imagine getting to work and you realize that all your files on your workstation and those of your colleagues cannot be accessed or you cannot even boot your computer. That is what basically happened with WannaCry infestations around the world, to the point that several businesses were crippled. This is an example of how bad things can get for the unprepared.

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