Wetherspoon hack: how to protect yourself from cybercrime in 5 steps

Some 85% of  the British population worry about cybercrime, but only 13% feel that they are in control of their online security.

Zlata Rodionova
Friday 04 December 2015 13:03 GMT
The National Cyber Crime Unit has revealed that some hackers are offering ‘cybercrime as a service’, and have created a marketplace where gangs can bid for targets to be attacked
The National Cyber Crime Unit has revealed that some hackers are offering ‘cybercrime as a service’, and have created a marketplace where gangs can bid for targets to be attacked (Reuters)

British pub chain JD Wetherspoon has become the latest company to suffer a cyber-attack when 656,723 customers had their personal information accessed illegally by third party. Many of them won’t have known they were a victim because Wetherspoon didn’t pick up on the breach until six months after it occurred.

“Unfortunately, the breach occurred without our knowledge and remained undetected until now,” JD Wetherspoon confirmed on Friday.

The attack is the latest in a string of security breaches at sites including TalkTalk, Ashley Madison and T-Mobile, among others.

UK consumers’ lost more than 9 hours and nearly £134 dealing with security breaches online last year, the equivalent of £1.6 billion in the UK as a whole. Some 85 per cent of the British population worry about cybercrime, but only 13 per cent feel that they are in control of their online security.

If the companies that are supposed to protect your information don’t even known when they have been hacked, you may want to take steps to protect yourself. We asked Candid Wüest, Threat Researcher at Symantec, what people can do to stay safe online.

Top 5 tips to stay safe online 

1. Keep your computer current with the latest patches and updates.

“By regularly updating your computer, you block attackers from being able to take advantage of software flaws that they could otherwise use to break into your system.

“While keeping your computer up-to-date will not protect you from all attacks, it makes it much more difficult for hackers to gain access to your system, blocks many basic and automated attacks completely, and might be enough to discourage a less-determined attacker to look for a more vulnerable computer elsewhere.”

2. Make sure your computer is configured securely

“Configuring popular internet applications such as your Web browser and email software is one of the most important areas to focus on.

“The strongest security settings will give you the most control over what happens online but may also frustrate some people with a large number of questions (‘This may not be safe, are you sure you want do this?’) or the inability to do what they want to do. Often security and privacy settings can be properly configured without any sort of special expertise by simply using the ‘help’ feature of your software or reading the vendor's website.”

3. Choose strong passwords and keep them safe

“Strong passwords have eight characters or more and use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols (e.g., # $ % ! ?).

“Avoid using any of the following as your password: your login name, anything based on your personal information such as your last name, and words that can be found in the dictionary. Keep your passwords in a safe place and try not to use the same password for every service you use online.”

“Change passwords on a regular basis, at least every 90 days. This can limit the damage caused by someone who has already gained access to your account. If you notice something suspicious with one of your online accounts, one of the first steps you can take is to change your password.”

4. Protect your computer with security software

“Security software essentials include firewall and antivirus programs. A firewall is usually your computer's first line of defence-it controls who and what can communicate with your computer online.

“The next line of defence is your antivirus software, which monitors all online activities such as email messages and Web browsing and protects an individual from viruses, worms, Trojan horse and other types malicious programs.”

5. Protect your personal information

“Exercise caution when sharing personal information such as your name, home address, phone number, and email address online. To take advantage of many online services, you will inevitably have to provide personal information in order to handle billing and shipping of purchased goods. Since not divulging any personal information is rarely possible:

- Keep an eye out for phony email messages.

- Don't respond to email messages that ask for personal information.

- When visiting a Web site, type the address (URL) directly into the Web browser rather than following a link within an email or instant message.

- Pay attention to privacy policies on Web sites and in software. It is important to understand how an organization might collect and use your personal information before you share it with them.

- Guard your email address.”

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