As we approach April Fools' Day, my thoughts are even more focused on our digital world and how our awareness of internet security must be at the forefront of our minds. April Fools' used to be a day when you played a harmless practical joke on your best friend or colleague. Today, it's big business for brands - and on a darker note - hackers. As consumers, we all know how easy it can be to mindlessly click through to webpages where we have been attracted by enticing offers, luring us in to cyber danger.
Brands often use the day as an opportunity to launch quirky news to consumers in order to deliberately gain momentum and attract a new type of following on social media. With brands coming up with legitimate web pages to entertain us, it's difficult to tell the difference between a secure site and one that masquerades as something more sinister.
Suspicious sites are designed to attract as many visitors as possible and lure unsuspecting users into becoming victims of attacks such as phishing, malware and denial of service (DoS). And social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, can inadvertently, and extremely quickly, help spread viewership of such content.
So, how do we ensure that we do not fall victim to these 'fake' news sites and more importantly, what might be lurking in these 'unsecure' web pages?
We MUST ensure that we...
1. Constantly monitor for potential hazards, and are aware of the dangers of trends in social media:
• Whilst we often look for threats from places or websites we are not familiar with, sometimes they are much closer to home. Social media has brought them right to the inside 'doorstep' of our most loved brands and thus our purchasing habits. And this has never been truer with the rise of longer form content such as video streaming being popular and well within the reach of hackers.
2. Think twice before clicking:
• It sounds simple but just as we have had to teach ourselves not to open unknown email attachments or fall victim to phishing attacks, we need to understand that clicking on 'fake' news stories or associated content can lead to security breaches, which can potentially expose our personal information.
3. Manage privacy settings:
• Make sure that you are only sharing information with groups that you have chosen to see your information. Check privacy settings regularly in case there are any changes in the host site's policies.
4. Don't reveal personal information online:
• Be suspicious of anyone who asks for your personal information online and never share your address, phone number, or any other personal identification information over the web.
5. Take advantage of new technology when it comes to password protection:
• We all know we should use different passwords for each account/log in and change them regularly, and it's really important that we get into this digital safety mind set. Fortunately, there are many secure apps and tools that will store our passwords so that we don't have to. In terms of newer technology, many of us are already using fingerprint recognition to unlock our smartphones and companies continue to look at alternative authentication options that help to keep our data safe. Mastercard offers selfie authentication, and last year, HSBC and first direct shared their plans for the largest roll out of voice and fingerprint biometric security in the UK. Next stop... lip motion!
As we open up to new and exciting technology that changes the world around us, we will of course encounter new threats. Whenever you are digitally connected, and whatever the form of content you are consuming, don't be fooled or caught out by something that's trending that you wouldn't normally trust under other circumstances.
Don't let the joke be on you this April!