You’ve been hacked. They’ve got into your Wi-Fi at home or at work and accessed personal details. You’re in a flat panic – how much information have they got to? What has been compromised? And what do you do about it?
Once the dust settles and you’ve dealt with the immediate crisis, it’s time to start an investigation into how it happened in the first place. Is it your fault, or is it your ISP who is to blame?
Read the T&Cs
Internet service providers make it very clear in their terms and conditions when you sign up that responsibility for the security of a website or home network ultimately lies with the end user. All they are doing is providing a hosting service that allows you to connect to the network and talk to friends or colleagues around the world, buy and sell products online, or do business in the virtual world.
While ISPs do have a responsibility to ensure that their platform doesn’t become the epicentre of bad traffic, repeated hacks and denial of service attacks, the onus is on the end user to make sure their access point is as secure as possible. In fact, if you leave your network vulnerable to attack and the hackers then go on to infiltrate the ISP database via your back door, you could be held responsible by the ISP and either cut off or even sued.
Cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility
It’s a case of ‘six of one and half a dozen of the other’ when it comes to overall responsibility. Most ISPs have fairly effective firewalls at source to make sure hackers cannot access customers’ networks, but it’s also up to you to put your own robust security measures in place. For business users that means strong firewalls and encryption software, as well as isolated access points for highly sensitive material such as financial records.
For personal users, it means not using ‘Password123’ as your password for everything! It means making sure you run regular checks to see if your system is secure, and it also means not having an ‘open’ network that anyone can access from a laptop in a car parked outside your house. This is all advice that the computer generation already knows about, but it’s always easy to forget and fall into bad habits.
If your ISP has been negligent in the way they run their service and allowed a hacker to gain access through weak security measures, then you may be able to claim compensation. However, the burden of proof will be with you rather than the ISP, and proving negligence to this degree can be extremely difficult.
Never ‘assume’ anything
The biggest piece of advice is to never ‘assume’ that your ISP has put sufficient security measures in place, and make sure you shore up your end with some tough security software of your own. Simply downloading some free anti-virus software off the internet isn’t enough. You need to invest in your own security, especially if your business relies on your online presence. After all, you wouldn’t leave your car unlocked with your laptop, mobile phone, wallet, and family heirlooms sitting on the passenger seat, and then blame the car manufacturer for the resulting theft! The same principle applies to your online security – ultimately, the safety of your digital information lies with you.
Website consent note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of legal interest about current legal issues.