Hacking, data breaches, and general cyber battles have been in the news a lot lately.
I recently read a book that shed a lot of light on how these things actually work – behind the scenes.
It’s called Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber Warfare.
Despite our Hollywood-fueled ideas about hacking, the practical reality is waaay different…
In short: It’s complicated!
By popular demand!
Meltdown and Spectre are the recently-publicized exploits that take advantage of flaws in modern processors.
These flaws are big news, but what’s the actual scoop?
It turns out that they ARE a big deal, but with a few important caveats…
Since the exploits themselves are so technically complicated, I have tried to explain them in a simplified way without sacrificing actual useful details.
That way, you can make up your own mind as to whether or not you should run for the hills!
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are the wave of the future, right?
So why is all the latest news about their value in US dollars? Isn’t that kind of backwards?
Obviously, these new digital currencies have a ways to go…
It doesn’t help that the systems in place are less than stellar, and we’re still seeing hacking resulting in people losing money.
But what about the future of blockchain technologies as a whole? Those are pretty awesome, right?
Well, yes and no. If you cut out the hype, you’ll have a much better idea about where all of this stuff is heading.
There are a few things you need to understand about staying safe and secure online. You need to realize what you’re actually up against.
But don’t fret, because it’s really not a big deal if you always keep in mind how things usually work.
For example, e-mail is never really safe, HTTPS doesn’t really always keep your connection secure, you can be tracked online very easily despite what most people will tell you, and you should always use some kind of anti-virus/malware protection no matter what OS you use.
And remember that the OS you use makes very little difference if you’ve taken some basic precautions… In fact, thinking you’re safe because you use Not Windows is probably a bad idea!
You’ve got an e-mail address, and you’ve got friends. So far, so good.
Then one day, you get an e-mail from Debbie telling you that your e-mail account has been hacked. She got a spam message that appeared to come from you!
Johnny got one, too.
Sweet mother of mercy, it must be the end of the world! Your e-mail’s been hacked! Maybe your puter’s been hacked!
Not so fast…
I’ll be honest: I didn’t think I had to explain any of this, because I thought it was obvious.
Given the number of recent online security breaches – including the release of really, really bad passwords – clearly it’s not so obvious.
Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, I think about this kind of thing as part of my work. Most people don’t. It’s my job to program things that work, but a big part of it becomes making things that other people will find difficult to exploit.
Otherwise, what’s the point? No one cares if it “just works” if some evil person out there can break it in 5 minutes! The way to go about doing this is to not program a single line of code until you’ve got the whole thing sorted in your head. Then, think about how you would hack it.
You don’t do this by thinking like yourself; you must think like someone who wants to attack you. Unless you’re a Russian chess master, you probably don’t think this way very often.
But, not to worry! The following are a few tips that will greatly increase your online security without making your brain catch on fire. Which is nice…
©1995 United Artists Pictures
This article originally appeared in Issue #13 of The Dot Connector Magazine.
Whether it’s the “Iranian Cyber Army”, those darn “Chinese Hackers”, or just your average script kiddie, everyone is aware that there bad people out there who want to mess with your glorious internet surfing experience.
You probably have heard of things like DoS (Denial of Service) attacks, and you’ve most certainly heard about viruses, trojans, and worms. But there is one thing I’m betting you haven’t heard much about: DNS cache poisoning.
You’ll see why this is a very important type of attack to be aware of a bit later. First, I should probably cover a few basics in case you aren’t a techie nerd. Just for the record, nerds don’t wear coke bottle glasses anymore; they wear contacts. Junk food is out, and healthy eating is in. Flannel shirts? Yes. Pocket protectors? No. And contrary to popular belief, we are generally good-looking. It’s all part of Nerd 2.0.
But, I digress.