What do grape-stealing birds and cyber criminals have in common?

Sitting in my home office I noticed a cheeky thrush hopping along the fence with a juicy red globe in its mouth. It took me a wee while to realise that this feathered criminal was quietly, and repeatedly picking off the precious first grape harvest that I have been lovingly cultivating.

It got me thinking about cyber criminals, as you do when you run a cyber resilience company (sad, I know!). Firstly, I wondered where was my protection? I have two well-fed kitties and a bouncy six-month-old Labrador that should be able to scare the feathers off any invader. But my defences were down, and the criminal didn’t waste any time flying in for the crown jewels of the garden.

Your home computer network is much the same. It’s easy to let your guard down, not keep your anti-virus up to date, forget to changes the default settings on your router, and patch? What the heck is that?

But it’s now when we are in the middle of a pandemic that you must be extra vigilant. Cyber criminals rely on people being on edge and letting their guard down. They theme fake emails with current event titles such as Omicron, Coronavirus or even “important news about vaccines” in the hope that you are distracted and won’t give the email or text the scrutiny it deserves.

If you find yourself working from home soon, here are some tips to keep you safe.

Don’t click on random emails or texts

Be extra vigilant about clicking on random emails or texts, even if they say they are from a reliable source. Cyber criminals are clever, and they can make very convincing looking emails. For example, an email from your bank telling you to click a link should be immediately suspicious because banks will never send you links to click. If you hover your mouse over the link, it will show you the address of the place it’s directing you to. It could be fake if it doesn’t resemble the company from which the email is supposed to have originated. If you want verification, ring the company on a publicly listed phone number to check.

Update your anti-virus, firewalls and passwords

A recent report from BitSight found that home office networks are 3.5 times more likely to be infected with malware. So, make sure you have all your protective measures up to date. These include anti-virus, personal firewalls and strong, unique username and passwords. If you don’t know how to set these up, there are plenty of Information Technology firms in NZ that can help you with this.

Secure your home office

Think about how you are handling sensitive work information. Your home office is not as secure as your work office, so think carefully before printing out information or storing copies on your personal computer. Using cloud storage that your business does not sanction leaves you open to potentially losing sensitive work information.

The harsh reality is that no one is safe from cybercriminals, but you can make your crown jewels look less attractive, so they pass you by.

For me, I’ve just deployed an additional layer of bird defences over my grapes. I am adopting what the cybersecurity industry call ‘defence in depth’. So, be extra vigilant, deploy your protections, and most of all, stay safe!

Contact us