Since we’re on a cyber pirate theme this month, I’ve been doing my fair share of pirate research, and I’ve found a lot of interesting information that crosses-over into today’s hacking threats. The pirates of yesteryear have much in common with today’s cyber pirates, so let's take a look at how they both scour open waters for easy prey.
During the Golden Age of Piracy, swashbucklers in search of ships to plunder followed a few guidelines before approaching the target. They’d be on the lookout for merchant ships sailing alone, unprotected by other nearby ships or heavily-armed naval warships. Using a spyglass, the pirates would scan the lone ship and count the crew members. They knew that the more merchandise the ship was carrying, the less room it had for crew members. It also meant that there was less artillery onboard because guns, cannons, cannonballs and gun powder added a lot of unnecessary weight.
If the signs were right, the pirates would implement their plan of attack. They would start by raising a “false flag” to make those aboard the merchant ship think they were friendly. The pirates would then slowly sail closer, keeping an eye on their prey. And when they were close enough to attack they would quickly lower the false flag and raise the Jolly Roger, giving the unguarded merchant ship little chance of escaping. If the ship did attempt to flee, the pirates would fire a couple of cannon shots, usually through the sails of their target. This achieved the goals of planting fear in the opposing crew as well as slowing their retreat. A ship can’t sail too swiftly with holes in the sails.
If the crew on the captured ship refused to surrender, the pirates would storm aboard, screaming loudly to frighten them. Pirates were usually not coldblooded killers, they chose instead to negotiate bribes from the captain and his crew and let them live to see another day. Usually, the ships were carrying goods like silk, oil, cocoa, and tobacco, which were quick to sell in nearby ports of call. If the pirates did find gold, silver or jewelry aboard, they would sell everything at bargain prices to the highest bidder. Indeed, pirates, merchants, and harbormasters would often play the same, shady game.
Today’s cyber pirates follow similar guidelines and procedures when searching for unprotected businesses to hack. They’re searching for cracks in your security foundation. They’re looking for ways to flood corporate inboxes with fraudulent emails carrying malicious attachments by getting close and appearing like a harmless coworker. And most of all, they’re looking for employees who are untrained in cybersecurity and password hygiene. Those are the signs they look for before attacking your business.
But what today’s pirates are after is more than a quick grab at random merchandise. They want your identity. Or your client’s identities. As many identities as they can take. As we’ve mentioned in our earlier blog, [link “Modern Day Pirates are After Your Passwords” here] even the largest companies around the world are regularly hacked. How in the world can you be safe?
You probably know that there is no guarantee that you’ll never get hacked. However, you can take steps to build deterrents for hackers and cyber pirates. They are out there looking at your business as a ship-load of goods, ripe for the taking. You need to take charge and not avoid the issue, because it will not go away. And the first place to start is thoroughly training your crew.
Securing Your Data
Here are some tips on securing your data, as well as protecting your passwords:
- Regularly Back-up your data. This will be what enables you to recover from data breaches, successful hacking attempts, or ransomware attacks.
- Update your Security Software as soon as updates are available. This ensures that you're protected from the latest cybersecurity threats. (Also, remember that Microsoft will discontinue updating Windows 7 early next year. You should upgrade to Windows 10 before that happens to remain safe.)
- Use two-factor authentication whenever possible. More and more sites and programs are incorporating this step because it greatly increases your safety.
- Use unique and complex passwords. It’s not easy to remember all the passwords we use, but one tip is to use a “password phrase” to make it easier to memorize.
- Do not use the same password for multiple accounts.
- Make sure you only connect to known Wi-Fi networks.
- Never open an attachment in an email from an unknown sender.
- Change all passwords that your business uses to view sensitive data after an employee with access leaves the company.
When it comes to protecting your data, there’s no such thing as being too careful. Cyber Pirates are figuring out ways to breach your data in new and clever ways. And many of them continue to search for ways to get through older, outdated security systems. When you come upon someone's radar as an easy target, the word spreads quickly throughout the network of seedy characters who would rather steal from you than work for a living.
By keeping your security software up to date, using these password rules, and training your employees, you’ll be building up a naval fleet of protection that surrounds your company, protecting you from the pirates who are after your goods. Take every measure you can to keep your precious treasure buried safely away from today’s cyber pirates.
Posted by Erica Kastner
Erica Kastner is a lead Marketing Specialist at Standard Office Systems as well as a University of Georgia graduate. She aims to use her passion for problem-solving to help businesses understand how to better leverage their network infrastructure.