You get home after a great night out. You're thinking you'll be a bit tired for tomorrow morning's meeting but it was worth it to see your friends. You're just about to put your keys into the lock, when the door opens. The lock's broken. You move from mellow to misery, via terror, in about half a second. You've been burgled, done over, invaded. Your deadlock's deadbeat.
Going into your home you see your files, diary and photo albums scattered across the floor. Furniture is upended. The teddy bear, that you know you are far too old to still have, has been chucked across the floor.
Cyber-criminals, sadly, are as real as their physical equivalents and the impact can be just as devastating. We also appear to underestimate the very real threat that they pose. Sixty percent of us believe that we are more likely to be the victim of a physical break-in, than of cybercrime, according to BT research. Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies, has just revealed that it was hacked in May, exposing 143 million people's personal data. This includes social security numbers, birth data and credit card details. It's information like this that builds up a picture of our lives. Banks, future employers and landlords can potentially dip into these 'data brokers' when they're making loan, job and rental decisions.
Equifax is not alone. TalkTalk, the Post Office and Yahoo, have all been attacked by cyber-criminals. This is big time burglary, by unscrupulous individuals who find their way through firewalls, rather than front doors.
At my firm we work overtime to help organisations and individuals defend themselves against cybercrime. While you won't see any Bond style car chases from our office windows, what you will find is my genius colleagues weaving in and out of some dark digital places. If you're worried about a dodgy hack, they'll help you fight back; as well as flag up ways you can beef up your cyber security in order to better secure your private and confidential information.
The fact is, if the cyber-criminals win, reputations and privacy can be ruined overnight. 18% was knocked off Equifax's share price as soon as news of the breach hit the wires. Lawsuits and investigations are now underway. Individuals too, may end up paying an equally high price if their private details go public, against their wishes. Look no further than the alleged iCloud leak in 2014 and Jennifer Lawrence's comments describing the sadness and then fury she felt at being the victim of a cyber sex crime.
This is why it's important for all of us to take cyber security seriously. 'Password', is obviously not a good, password. And yet despite knowing this, we're still doing it. It's up there with '123456' , and came 8th in a Keeper Security popular password list. Beware too the email phishers. They make their mails look legit, but poor spelling and odd looking addresses are a sure sign they're out to make you miserable with their malware nasties.
Likewise, go easy too with your personal details on social media. Probably best not to flag up your cat's name if that's the password to your online bank account. Update your software when your provider notifies you. They identify problems before you and I do, so it's worth sacrificing access to your smartphone for a couple of minutes to enable the download and restart. Encryption is also worth the effort. Yes it takes a bit of time, but time well spent I would say
The law is also doing its bit to beat the cyber-criminals. From May next year the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) kicks in. It aims to give us greater control over our personal data and to simplify the legal requirements for businesses.
But that's next year. In the meantime, I urge you to make your digital front door as secure as you can, revamp your password if you're using the obvious, and reassure your teddy that she can sleep easy; safe in the knowledge that intruders won't find they have easy access to her home, anytime soon.