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In-Depth

Bugged Out

As technology is incorporated into more and more aspects of Americans’ lives, they face greater threats when it comes to cyber security and being hacked. Hackers have proven that they can take control of almost everything online, whether it be credit card companies, specific websites or even one’s own camera on a personal laptop.

Although many computer software systems such as McAfee, Bitdefender and Norton have been widely promoted in order to ensure the privacy of users, they do not entirely eliminate all risks of computer hacks or malfunctions. Even the most technologically savvy, such as FaceBook creator Mark Zuckerberg, are still susceptible to being hacked. A photo of Zuckerberg revealed his laptop in the background, which had a piece of tape covering the camera in order to lower the chances of hackers gaining control of it.

After seeing this method of security, many have done as Zuckerberg has and have taken the same precaution, including James Comey, the director of the F.B.I. “I saw something in the news, so I copied it. I have a personal laptop — I put a piece of tape over the camera. Because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera,” Comey told the New York Times.

Hacking can be something quite hard for even big companies and websites to completely avoid. In 2014, a copy of certain user account information was stolen from Yahoo’s network. The stolen information included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth and security questions and answers according to Yahoo. Target and Home Depot customers had their credit card user information stolen in recent years, too.

In order to deal with these hacks and do their best to protect their users, Yahoo worked to enhance their systems that detect and prevent unauthorized users from accessing accounts; they also recommended that users change their passwords and invalidated security questions used to access accounts. They worked closely with law enforcement authorities and notified potentially affected users of ways they can further secure their accounts.

Hacks like those at Yahoo serve as a reminder of how widespread hacking is and highlights the vulnerability of passwords.

Hackers can take control of anything; even Maine West has had its Internet hijacked by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

DDoS attacks are becoming more and more common with our increased technology use, especially at school. “Distributed denial of service attacks are occurring at increasing rates each year, and have targeted not only our district, but neighboring school districts and businesses,” District 207 network manager John Urbanski said.

However, it is good to know that the school district does have many safety measures when it comes to cybersecurity. “We have hardware, web filters and even our own databases that look on the web to see where people go. Then, it blocks any bad webpages that it comes across,” West computer technician Dexter Roknich said.

Urbanski added, “Depending on the attack, there are best practices to follow to limit exposure to attacks and downtime. District 207 endeavors to follow these best practices and keep our services as secure as possible.”

In order to deal specifically with DDoS attacks like the one at school, Intrusion Detection and Prevention (IDP) systems are used to detect DDoS attacks. “IDPs look at the patterns of traffic; if something looks strange, it throws up a flag. They see that something is happening and start to filter it,” Roknich said. “It blocks that weird traffic that is coming in or gives us another line to connect to.”

When it comes to technology and cyber security, there are several ways students can protect their devices from being hacked or infected by viruses. “Always use anti-virus and anti-malware software, which should be easy considering that modern systems often integrate these very well,” Roknich said. There are also other simple ways to stay safe from viruses. “Avoid the clickbait; be smart about what you click on!” Roknich said. “You can even just get Adblock on any internet browser, like Google Chrome.” This will prevent many ads or clickbait from even appearing on your screen in the first place, making viruses even easier to avoid.

Another way to stay safe from being hacked is to keep personal data as safe as possible. “Awareness is important, especially when it comes to social engineering hacks, in which hackers trick users to give up their credentials or personal information,” Urbanski said.

Aside from staying aware and using advanced passwords, having an updated system will leave hackers with a more difficult task of trying to decipher the system. “People can protect themselves from being hacked if they regularly update their [Operating System] and keep it current—that way hackers can’t exploit vulnerabilities in an outdated system,” junior Chris Jensen said.

Additionally, students can stay protected by keeping their password secure. “Don’t leave personal info on Post-it notes; don’t share account information and use complex passwords,” Urbanski said. “A great free password tool called LastPass is a good way to incorporate some of these tips without much effort.”

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