BUCKHANNON — “Ignore cyber security at your own risk,” the speaker at a special presentation at the Upshur County Public Library warned his audience Thursday.
Mike Gallogly, chief executive officer of the Elkins-based company Mi-Tec Solutions, delivered a talk he dubbed “Cyber Security 101,” which outlined some basic strategies individuals and businesses can use to protect themselves against hackers and others who are trying to steal their personal or professional information.
The presentation is just one of a slew of special evening programs the library has hosted recently.
Gallogly pointed to email attachments and malicious links as the two most common ways those who engage in “cyber warfare” use to attack information systems.
“Most of the attacks are coming in as email attachments, about 39 percent,” Gallogly said. “Also, there’s malicious links that you’re clicking on, bad stuff like that, which is about 34 percent. There are also web drive-bys, but if you hit, control, alt, delete, you’re OK.”
Social engineering — defined as the methods and techniques used to persuade someone to give up information they otherwise wouldn’t — is the most effective strategy used to attack an individual, Gallogly said.
“It’s much easier now with social media because you can learn a lot about an individual prior to your first contact,” he said. “Now, everybody’s just spouting out everything that they do, every meal that they eat. I hate Facebook; I can’t stand it. It’s a huge, horrible time-sucking mess to me.”
One key idea people need to grasp, Gallogly stressed, is that when a service is free, the user becomes the product being sold.
“One thing people have to wrap their head around is you either pay for a piece of software, and you get something and you have a reputable company behind you, or you get something for free,” he said. “Everybody loves free. But if it’s free, guess who’s the product. You — and your information.
“Your personal information can then be used against you. If you use Google, you are not the customer, you are the product,” Gallogly continued. “Google sells that (search history, personal information) to real customers and advertisers — that’s how Google is the juggernaut that it is, because it knows all of our search history. The biggest problem with security is not the technology. The biggest problem with cyber security is that human nature has not adapted to the digital age. The digital age has just gone past what we have the capacity to handle.”
But don’t despair— there are ways to protect yourself against spyware, cyber attacks, viruses and other security threats, Gallogly said.
“Do yourself a favor and get a real firewall,” he said, recommending SonicWall, Calyptix, Sophos, Watchguard, Checkpoint, Fortinet, Cyberoam and Astaro. “Also, use a mail scrubber or spam filter if you can, and there’s a number of them available on the web. Also, any data back-ups should be automated. A good anti-virus or anti-malware program is good to have, and a good free program is Malwarebytes.”
Gallogly also recommended installing an ad blocker, which will not only protect against cyber threats, but also increase internet speed.
“You should also get a USB drive and make a drive image of your computer, which captures everything,” he said. “It takes all the data on your hard drive in one big chunk and backs it up.”
Consumer-grade automated back-up programs Gallogly recommended include Carbonite, myPC Backup, Mozy, CrashPlan and OneDrive. Effective ad blockers can be found at adblockplus.org or www.ublock.org.
Gallogly said utilizing a program called LastPass can help people keep track of passwords, which often expire or are required to be an increasingly complex combination of numbers, letters and special characters.
“Best of all, you can use LastPass to automatically generate a complex password for your banking and business website, and it will remember them for you,” Gallogly said. “All you need to remember is one password — and don’t forget it — and LastPass will automatically load your username and password for any site you tell it to remember.”
One last tip?
Never check your social media accounts, email or bank accounts on open, free wi-fi networks while traveling, Gallogly said.
“You could be taking a huge risk,” he emphasized.
For additional information, Gallogly can be reached at [email protected] or 304-614-0186.