Are you safe online?

Are you safe online?

What are you scared of most? Heights? Spiders? Clowns? What about the exposure of your private life?

What if a window was left clearly open for an intruder ? What if someone entered your house through that window and recorded everything you did anonymously? At first you will continue your day to day activities, unaware of the rising threat. However, over time, as this intruder learns more about you and gains more confidence, they begin to trouble you. Soon, you sense their presence. You feel watched. Before long, you are lead to the fear of sudden attacks or exploitation of your private life. And one day, this anonymous intruder left along with what you valued most, your private life. And all because a window was left carelessly open.

Now, what if I told you there was an open window on the internet? What if I told you that from anywhere at any time, someone could access your sensitive account details and run away with it, undetected? What if I told you that you are not safe online?

You may have heard of a recent internet bug dubbed ‘Heartbleed’. Now you may be wondering what this bug is and how does it have anything to do with your online life? To sum it up in one line, ‘Heartbleed’ is the open window. To make matters worse, this window has been open since late 2011.

Through ‘Heartbleed’, identity thieves, online attackers and hackers in general have the ability to take away chunks of sensitive and private information from over 66% of all websites on the internet. What is so frightening about this bug is that 66% of these websites include social media, online banking and shopping, cloud storage and so on.

A simple explanation of what ‘Heartbleed’ is is that it is a security bug affecting a cryptographic tool known as OpenSSL. This tool is extremely popular with large internet service providers who utilise OpenSSL to encrypt personal and sensitive information, and user to server interactions for protection against eavesdropping. What the ‘Heartbleed’ bug does within the cryptographic tool is that it exposes this encryption to those who can properly utilise the bug. The biggest problem with this bug is not only that it is tricky to solve, but that fact that it has been identified in around 500,000-600,000, or 66% of internet service providers, making this a ridiculously large issue.

So what can you do about it? Firstly, check if the websites you’re visiting begins with ‘https://’ as this protocol signifies that the website uses OpenSSL. If you have opened an account on such pages, it is advised that you change your password as frequently as possible. This will ensure that your account will be harder to track down by hackers but it does not guarantee full protection. Secondly, keep a close eye on service providers announcements on the ‘Heartbleed’ bug. That way, you will stay up to date with what is happening and what you must do next. Thirdly, closely monitor your sensitive accounts such as your bank details, emails, and so on. This way, you will stay alert about the bug and will be able to report any faults or issues accurately and immediately. And finally, exercise caution when opening new accounts or linking existing accounts to other internet service providers.

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