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How safe is our online data?

Recently in the news, the issue of social media security has been particularly prevalent. One of the biggest stories this year surrounded the hacker group “Lizard Squad”, which hacked several of the main social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Tinder, gaining access to thousands of users’ data in early January.

The Lizard Squad has also been responsible for attacks on PlayStation and Xbox systems in the past, which they claim to have hacked “because they can” - as quoted on BBC Radio Five Live by a suspected member of the group. The interviewee went on to add “Is Christmas really about children playing with their new consoles, or playing with their new toys, or is it about them spending time with their families and celebrating?". This suggests that the attacks could be some kind of protest against society’s increased reliance on technology.

In December 2014, the squad had announced on Twitter that it is available to hire for attacks on any website in exchange for bitcoins (a digital currency which is favoured by online black markets due to its difficulty to trace). The highest level of attack promises just over eight hours of activity and costs 129.99 bitcoins, around £25,500.

The Lizard Squad has also been known to threaten much more than data protection - in August 2014, it claimed that a plane on which the president of Sony Online Entertainment, John Smedley, was flying had explosives on board. Although this turned out to be a hoax, the group’s hacking of the Malaysian Airlines’ website after a recent loss of one of its planes which killed 243 people, was not. It is still unclear what happened to the plane, and although unlikely, whether the hacking was Lizard Squad’s way of claiming responsibility in collaboration with the extremist group ISIS.With such high levels of threat a possibility, should we be taking all our data off social media and undergoing a ‘digital detox’ to avoid the risk? In my opinion, we should continue to use social media as much as we like – the Lizard Squad, similar to most terrorist groups, is simply looking to spread fear via mostly tenuous threats. Plus, for every hacker, there are multi-billion companies such as Apple, Windows, Facebook, Twitter and Google, not to mention the Government, working tirelessly to protect our online data from attacks. Although a scary prospect, the increase in web security requirements and procedures has meant that hacking attacks have been less frequent and less severe in the last few years.

If you are interested in taking steps towards protecting your web accounts from being hacked, I would recommend reading this brilliant Wiki-how full of tips on securing emails and social media accounts, creating the perfect password and general online safety.

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