By Igor Magun
There’s a sentiment about online security I hear all too often from my family and friends: “I don’t care if I get hacked, there’s nothing valuable on my computer!”
It’s understandable. You’re probably not famous and you probably don’t keep government secrets on your computer. So why would you be hacked? But there are several reasons you’d make a great target, most of which have nothing to do with hurting you directly.
Any device connected to the internet, regardless of what’s on it, has something valuable to offer: computing power and an internet connection. If someone takes over enough devices, they can form a “botnet” (a network of compromised computers controlled by a hacker). These can be used to deal damage to bigger targets, using techniques like distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
To put it simply, DDoS attacks spam a device with internet traffic until it’s overwhelmed, which can slow the device to a crawl or even cause it to crash.
This can be used to restrict access to web services, or extort owners for money. One such attack took out Reddit, Twitter and other major websites last October by targeting core internet infrastructure.
There’s more, of course. Compromised devices can be used to host illegal files or websites, which can then spread computer viruses or steal passwords.
They can also be used to tunnel web traffic, which helps attackers stay anonymous while they harm others.
Then there’s your email and social media accounts. These are easy ways to spread spam and viruses, or attempt to scam your contacts. Information about your contacts could be used to commit identity theft or guess the security questions for their bank accounts.
These are all very real threats, and there’s plenty more of them, but the point isn’t to panic. In theory, there are protections in place for many of these problems.
But what we need to remember is that security on the internet is complex and interconnected. It requires multiple layers of protection to be effective.
If we can keep more of those layers intact, we make it harder for malicious hackers to succeed.
This means that, to some extent, your security relies on mine, and mine relies on yours.
That’s why I want to remind you to do your part. Keep your devices updated. Enable two-factor authentication. Encourage your device manufacturers to take security seriously. Because when it comes to online security, we’re all in this together.