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Home  >  Police Products  >  Technology

April 23, 2013
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John Rivera Technology Helpdesk
with John Rivera

3 ways to protect yourself from hackers

Many police agencies, private businesses, and even our own Federal Government have experienced some kind of hacker intrusion in the past few years

Thanks to Hollywood, there’s widespread misunderstanding of what a computer hacker really is. In essence, hackers write lines of computer code (typically referred to as a virus) as a means of gaining illicit entry to a computer system. 

Certain hackers are a real and serious threat. Yes, some are just kids living in their mother’s darkened basements, eating Twinkies and drinking Mountain Dew, but others are nefarious actors we’d be mistaken to underestimate.

Some are contracted by unfriendly governments and/or terrorists to work 24/7 to attempt illicit entry into a protected computer system and try to cause some kind of chaotic event. In the last several years, we’ve seen several reported illicit computer network intrusions (either attempted or successful) that resulted in some type of inconvenience for users.  

Most computer networks have some kind of virus protection (which you should frequently update) installed in them but new viruses are written every day and others may lay dormant until a certain function is executed, unleashing the virus and completing the task it was written for.  

Many times the virus was written to gather simple information but other viruses are written to gather financial information or other vital information that could possibly have damaging results in the wrong hands.

1.) Be Careful Which Emails You Open
Many viruses enter a system innocently in the form of an email. An uneducated user may see an email from a known colleague’s email address and open it not knowing that their colleagues’ computer had been infected with a virus (probably put there when they themselves opened an infected email, and so on, and so on). 

If I see any suspicious email, I don’t open it and immediately delete it. It doesn’t matter where or who it came from. 

For example, you might see an email that has what is possibly a normal address but if you look at the complete address you would probably see an odd domain name, for example example@morexample.com. 

Ignore these. 

Fortunately, most email servers now automatically move suspicious email into a “Junk” file. While in the “Junk” file, the email lays there until you completely delete it. But be careful what “Junk” files you delete; some legitimate emails sometimes make their way into the junk file.  I personally look at my “Junk” file daily to ensure I can safely delete the mail without losing any vital email. 

2.) Change Your Passwords
The next method to ensure computer network security, which I mentioned in an article from May 2010, relates to passwords. Change your home password at least every 90 days. If you find this daunting, generate a password with eight or more characters and include uppercase, lowercase, symbols and/or numbers. I personally have used this method and have been able to retain the same password for more than 20 years. 

Many businesses, municipal governments, school and other professional industries already have many security features in place that require you to change your password at a certain time. Those same institutions also have character requirements for users. 

3.) Secure Your Network
Most current American homes have a computer network and some of us sometime may work from home and have the ability to access the work network remotely. Many of those home networks are wireless and may not be properly secured — they may be vulnerable to illicit intrusion and you’d not know it.  

Finding an unsecured computer network can be done with an Internet-enabled smartphone. For example, I have been dispatched to calls of suspicious vehicles in a neighborhood and discovered the person in the car was just “browsing” the internet by using an unsecured home computer network from the street. This is becoming more frequent in our ever evolving technological environment. 

Some hackers even conduct drive-by hacking. These hackers drive into neighborhoods with a computer and look for unsecured wireless computer networks. Once they discover one, they are able to administer an illicit activity or even gather pertinent information that may divulge sensitive personal or work information. 

To help insure security from hackers on your personal and possible work networks accessed from home, be sure to secure your home computer network. This is a simple task that can be done by following the instructions that are included in the network router manual. 

About the author

John Rivera is a Patrol Officer with the Bremerton Police Department. John’s career BPD started as a Volunteer Reserve Officer and while he volunteered his time as a reserve officer he work as Police Officer at Naval Base Kitsap. He was hired full time in 2006 and attended the Washington State Police Academy. While at the academy, John was selected as the class “Techy” to help with the technologically deficient class instructors. Before John’s law enforcement career, he gained his computer experience through earning a degree in Computer Programming and then working in the computer industry as a Network Administrator and Systems Engineer for several companies.

Contact John Rivera

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