By Nathan Jackson, MCSA, A+, Network+, Linux+, Security+ –
As an IT professional, one of the things that I hear from people is: “I don’t have anything on my computer worth stealing so why do I need anti-virus? When I hear this I feel that they don’t understand their own worth and how easy it is to protect themselves.
So let’s look at what is stored on your computer/laptop/phone/tablet that someone else could take and sell to the wrong people.
- Data. The first thing that most people think of when they think of someone breaking into their computer is that they’re after the data on it. While this is found more on the business side, even a home system has a surprising amount of worthwhile data on it. Your contact list is full of information that can help a hacker attack your friends and family. What about the pictures of your last vacation? Or the video of your daughter’s first steps? How much is that data worth to you? Ransomware attacks have become much more popular over the last few years.
- The computer itself. Bot nets, networks of zombie computers, are a tool that some on the internet use to disrupt the normal running of the internet. Your computer can be turned into a zombie then rented out by the day for others to use. And let’s not forget the vast amount of empty space on many home computers. There have been cases of hackers compromising computers and using the extra space on them to store their collection of illegal pictures and videos. Then they’ll hand out the address to the computer to their friends. When the FBI comes knocking they don’t want to hear that you got hacked, they hear it all the time and possession is 9/10ths of the evidence against you.
- You. From stored passwords to your email, Facebook or home banking accounts, to your own personal data, every piece of information is useful to someone. Remember, identity theft is a real thing, and armed with your email, password, and banking information, a hacker can steal enough to take your identity. Once your identity has been stolen, it’s impossible to get it back and you will have to deal with the consequences each time it is resold and reused.
So the answer to the question, “What do I have worth stealing?” is “quite a bit.” Much of our lives are tied up in our electronic devices. From our computers to our phones, even our appliances are becoming more interconnected. Everything we use stores information, and everything we use can come under attack by people who want that information, or the device itself. Your data is worth something, and so are you.