Monday 24 July 2017

Online hackers prey on our biggest weakness - stupidity

Everyone should have up-to-date computer security, but cybercriminals will still find a way through

'Cybercrime, in other words, is such a problem because it is so many problems wrapped into one' Stock photo: Reuters
'Cybercrime, in other words, is such a problem because it is so many problems wrapped into one' Stock photo: Reuters

Robert Colville

A few weeks ago, 15 of Donald Trump's advisers received an email, apparently from a friend. It contained an invitation to edit a Google spreadsheet. More than half of the recipients clicked on the link. James Comey, then still the FBI director, actually replied to it.

The email in fact came from the website Gizmodo. It wasn't a hack, though it could have been. It was a stunt, intended to show how vulnerable our systems are to hackers' number one weapon: human stupidity.

The infection that crippled computer networks in dozens of countries, gained access because of such stupidity: perhaps a single person clicking on a fake link. But it spread because of laziness, penny-pinching and bureaucracy. Some companies hadn't been willing (or perhaps able) to spend money on updating its systems: the hack relied on a known vulnerability - but IT managers failed to install a patch released two months ago to prevent precisely such an attack. Even if they had, 90pc of the UK's NHS trusts - a target of the hackers - still use Windows XP, an operating system declared obsolete in April 2014, and thus lacking any such patches.

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