Being hacked often can be devastating both financially and emotionally. Image Credit: Supplied

With all the news about corporations being hacked and having confidential data leaked to the public, you might think hackers no longer bother targeting home PC users. Think again, says Yaseen Ahmad, a digital forensics and information security consultant.

While companies generally present a more lucrative target for criminal hackers, there are many reasons why you can become targeted, too, warns Ahmad who works at at ISIT, a Dubai-based information security and enterprise storage & cloud solutions company.

The most common attack scenario is having your credit card info or banking details stolen. However, there are several other sinister methods of hacking that allow hackers to:

1 Steal files containing private information or precious intellectual property

2 Take control of your webcam or microphone to spy on you

3 Gather information to stalk, harass, or blackmail you in real life

4 Defame or embarrass you by posting objectionable material to your social media sites

Ordinary PC users seldom think of the repercussions of being hacked. But being hacked can be devastating, both financially and emotionally. And once the damage is done, it is too late. So what can be done to prevent it?

First, ask yourself whether you make these common security blunders:

1 Do you use the same password on all your website and social media site logins?

2 Do you use a simple password that can be guessed easily?

3 Do you leave your PC connected to the internet when not in use?

4 Do you leave your PC or Tablet camera uncovered when not in use?

If your answer is “yes” to these questions, there may be many more mistakes you are making. The first line of defence against malware infection and hacking attacks will be your antivirus program, but it is not foolproof. Your security is your own responsibility. The weakest link in a security chain is always a human being. The user. Security awareness is not just for geeks and IT professionals anymore. It is for every internet user.

Typical off-the-shelf antivirus software can detect most types of malware, but there are other malicious programs that can evade detection. For example, some hackers will utilise what is called a “Crypter” to encrypt their malware, which makes them impossible to stop without the help of a trained security professional.

The good news is, despite the popular Hollywood belief that hackers are genius criminal masterminds, this is simply not true of many hackers. Hackers always take the easy and lazy way out by preying on naïve users. The easiest way to rob a home is not by breaking the lock or cutting the glass window. It is by getting the home owner to hand his keys over to the thief. That’s is essentially how many computer users help hackers do their job.

In most cases of home user hacking, criminals will exploit the basic gaps in security. This includes finding users without an antivirus or firewall running, and relying on users’ carelessness.

Reduce your risk by following these 10 simple security tips:

1 Install an antivirus and keep it updated. A good commercial antivirus can cost as little as Dh250

2 Don’t install software from untrusted sources such as torrents or pirated software

3 Don’t click on any links or download attachments from any unknown email

4 Log out of your web mail accounts instead of just closing your web browser

5 Regularly update your Windows operating system using Windows Update

6 Lock your computer when you are not using it

7 Use a complex password with numbers, symbols, lower case and upper case characters

8 Disconnect your computer from the internet when you are not using it

9 Cover your webcam when not using it

10 Don’t use a USB drive unless you scan it first with your antivirus scanner.

Advanced users can also increase their security by enabling BitLocker, available for Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 10 in the Ultimate, Professional, and Enterprise editions. Remember to back up your data before doing so.

Another simple protective method is to enable Windows Family Safety. See the Microsoft page for instructions.

By taking a few precautions and using your PC with common sense, you can easily stop hackers in their tracks.