For the past several years, the media has been awash with stories of Russia, China, and North Korea relentlessly infiltrating US government cyber assets and private American companies. While the most commonly reported hacks are nuisances such as election meddling, fake social media accounts, and stealing emails, hacking constitutes a serious threat to people, companies, and governments alike. In this article, we’ll explore the nature of government hacking, and how to keep sensitive information safe at home or at work.
Why Hackers Attack Governments, and Governments Attack People
Hacking government resources is far from a new phenomenon. The first hacking attempts against government computers began occurring in the 1980s, almost immediately after agencies adopted intranet. Well before that, computer scientist Rene Carmille was hacking Nazi census card machines to prevent the deportation of French Jews.
Hackers target governments for a variety of reasons across the spectrum of morality. Such reasons may include:
- A form of activism called hacktivism
- Acquiring confidential material for leaks
- Espionage or sabotage
Hacking is extremely common. The degree to which it’s occurring is why the Department of Homeland Security considers cyberweapons and government hacking to pose a bigger threat to US safety than physical attacks.
Governments also hack.
By and large, governments consider hacking private devices a legitimate form of surveillance and counterattack. Government hacking, which refers to the manipulation of or gaining covert access to individuals’ devices, is often couched in justifications such as crime-prevention or investigation. It’s also big business. The FBI has spent nearly $1 million on hacking services and spy tools since 2011.
Unfortunately, because it tends to occur covertly, a significant risk exists that governments will abuse these capabilities. Sometimes they do. It’s not uncommon for journalists to discover their computers have been compromised. Government hacking, therefore, has significant ramifications for privacy, personal security, and democracy.
6 Tips for Keeping Your Personal Information Safe from Cyber Hacking
What can private citizens and American companies do to prevent personal information from being obtained by domestic or foreign government hackers? Here are six tips to help keep data out of the hands of all hackers – from the government or otherwise.
1. Keep firmware updated.
Firmware is software that’s embedded into read-only memory in order to standardize an operating environment. In cases of simple electronics, firmware acts as the operating system itself. For example, the timing and control system in a washing machine with a digital interface uses firmware to create a “program” which operates the washer.
Firmware is common in digital consumer products, routers, firewalls, and network-attached storage. However, because it lacks a direct user interface so it’s easy to forget it’s there. As such, firmware hacking by government actors is prevalent because so few people keep theirs updated.
2. Disable remote administration.
Remote administration allows users to log onto a computer from a different computer, often via an online portal. Disabling this feature prevents unauthorized users from manipulating a computer in real-time by hacking one of these portals.
3. Turn on guest networks.
Use separate Wi-Fi networks for staff and guests by turning on guest networks through the router. These different networks can be granted access to different areas of the network. Keeping different user types segmented provides another layer of safety for sensitive data.
4. Encrypt devices.
Use full-disk encryption on devices to make it more difficult for criminals to access devices. For additional security, make use of multiple encryptions with independent keys. An example of this might include a full-disk encryption of a hard drive containing multiple encrypted volumes, where individual directories are also encrypted.
5. Use strong passwords.
Strong passwords make devices, programs, and files difficult to crack. There are many free password generators online which use combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters to produce impossible to guess passwords. A good password is a frontline defense against a hacker.
6. Minimize online footprints.
An amazing amount of information can be gleaned about a person from their online activity. These insights can later be leveraged for social engineering purposes, which is how many damaging cyber-attacks start. Minimizing an online footprint prevents hackers from learning too much about an individual.
Level Up Security with DME
Cyber hacking is extremely common, and it poses threats to more than just the government. Hacking attempts occur routinely against businesses and the government, but these efforts can have direct impacts on private lives as well. For businesses, managed IT services can significantly reduce the risk of a hack by introducing robust but cost-effective cybersecurity.
DME understands that cybersecurity extends beyond simply locking down devices. Implement surveillance which has your best interests at stake. Contact us today to get started with ensuring that your private information stays safe from prying eyes.