Richard Patterson is director and founder of Comparitech.com, a leading consumer advice, comparison and review site for privacy and security products such as VPNs, password managers and online backup.
Your bio states you’re a blogger with a huge passion for information security. How did that passion develop? What was your motivation behind starting Comparitech.com?
There’s lots of great information on the web for those looking to understand more about information security and how to protect their privacy, yet there’s a lack of really great resources that pull together both consumer advice, product reviews and comparison. Comparitech.com addresses that need by providing educational articles and tutorials alongside detailed product reviews and comparison all in one place.
What have been one or two of the most unexpected outcomes of running Comparitech.com?
One outcome, which has been pleasantly surprising rather than entirely unexpected, is meeting lots of great people in the information security industry and seeing the passion they have for it. In particular the passion people have around protecting privacy is amazing to see and plays a vital role in keeping corporations and governments in check over these issues.
Comparitech.com, researches and compares security and privacy related products. What are some of the hallmarks of outstanding internet security software, in your experience?
Ease of use is essential, anything that’s complicated, or appears complicated, won’t be adopted by the masses. This is particularly true in information security where having a simple effective solution is paramount.
A second is consistency, in information security working well most of the time doesn’t cut it, no one would sign-up to an antivirus product that stops quite a lot of threats. While no internet security products are 100% effective, blocking the vast majority of threats is vital or the company’s reputation will soon be ruined. Thankfully there’s data consumers can see on the the effectiveness of internet security solutions, we cover this in our reviews and consumers can also download free reports from companies like SE Labs who test the real world effectiveness of internet security products.
Are more consumers becoming interested in information security? If so, what are some of the reasons for the increased interest?
There is an increased awareness, but there’s still too much apathy towards information security with many consumers only taking an interest reactively, after an account has been hacked, their identity stolen or their files encrypted by ransomware. Sadly, the increased awareness is largely down to an increase in cybercrime with one in ten adults a victim in the last 12 months according to the ONS.
As more of our lives become connected the opportunity for hackers increases and this in turn leads to greater media coverage of information security and greater consumer awareness. The glut of high profile company hacks, the rise of ransomware and the scare stories around how hackers could infiltrate the Internet of Things all contribute to raising awareness. There is more being done by companies, charities and governments to raise awareness yet the statistics of ever increasing cybercrime show it’s not nearly enough.
Comparitech.com reviews Password Manager programs, including free and paid options. Are Password Managers secure, generally? Are there any particularly good free options out there, that you can recommend?
The security of password managers is an interesting topic, LastPass have recently been in the news after a vulnerability was exposed and some experts worry about the risk of keeping so many login credentials in one place. The consensus is that password managers still offer more benefits than risks and using a password manager to generate and remember hard-to-guess passwords certainly beats using the same password for multiple accounts. You can see both sides of the coin argued for and against password managers here.
There are plenty of good free options available, despite the recent vulnerability we still liked the free version of LastPass in our review, we also like the open source password manager KeePass, it’s free and offers great security although it is not quite so easy to use as some of the slicker commercial alternatives.
A recent Comparitech.com survey found that Windows users were prepared to jump ship and move to Mac in light of Windows 10 privacy issues, how big an issue is this?
It has potential to cause serious damage to the Windows brand and Microsoft’s bottom line. My gut feeling is that these issues will be addressed as Microsoft can’t afford not to. Any company that seriously compromises its customers’ privacy is likely to be in for a hard time.
Comparitech.com has been quite vocal in opposition to Netflix’s VPN ban, what are your main concerns?
Any company that bans products which protect consumers’ security and privacy is going to upset a lot of people, me included. Aside from the privacy and security benefits of encrypting traffic and concealing a user’s location, many consumers use VPNs to access geo-blacked content. In the case of fee-paying Netflix users who are outside the US, many use VPNs to access the wider range of content available to US subscribers. It’s currently a game of cat and mouse with Netflix banning VPNs and VPNs finding workarounds, we’re got an updated list of VPNs that work with Netflix here.
Before everything was networked and interconnected, things like print-outs and in office mail could be possible security risks. What are a few simple security risks people might be overlooking? What are some of the potential dangers of these threats?
The most basic things are often overlooked. Six often repeated yet still ignored pieces of advice are:
- Keep your devices updated, updates often patch security vulnerabilities.
- Don’t click on links or open attachments in emails if you don’t know who they are from or if they look suspicious, even if you know the sender their account may have been hacked.
- Don’t use the same login and password details on multiple sites, if a hacker gets his or her hands on this they could soon be in to all of your accounts and assuming your identity.
- Check privacy settings on social media and apps, particularly Facebook or you may unwittingly be sharing more than you think. For example, if you’re going on holiday you probably don’t want to broadcast it publicly on Facebook.
- Use an internet security product, I’d advise using a paid one, there are plenty of good ones available. If you don’t want to pay for one the reputable free ones are certainly better than nothing.
- Be careful how you use free public Wi-Fi, hackers can intercept data and collect valuable personal information and passwords. If you use public Wi-Fi don’t use if to provide sensitive information or for financial transactions, if in doubt use your mobile network instead. If you have a VPN turn this on to encrypt your traffic when using public Wi-Fi.
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