A life without the internet today is hard to imagine; people interact with each other and conduct their daily business online.
This convenience at our fingertips can often come at a high price, where there is money, there is potential for crime.
One very successful method used by cyber-criminals is to send out mass emails, known as phishing emails. The cyber-criminals attempt to lure the reader in to a false sense of security by making the email appear legitimate. Often the email appears to be from a legitimate email address, or even someone you know. The emails may also be disguised to be from your local bank, or credit card company, and may contain a link. If you click on the link you may be redirected to a webpage that looks like the real website, and it will ask you for your login credentials. The website is in fact controlled by the cyber-criminal, and if you attempt to login you actually provide the criminal with your credentials.
Phishing scams are fairly simple to set up, and because of that they are very common. The cyber-criminal does not target you specifically, instead they targets thousands of users hoping that someone will fall for the trap they laid.
Another trend we see on the rise is the use of Ransomware. Much like the phishing emails the cyber-criminal may distribute emails disguised as legitimate emails, with custom built software in an attachment. The emails may allude to the fact there is an invoice attached, or a billing statement, in the hopes the reader will be curious and open it. Once open, the software will be installed unbeknownst to the user. Ransomware will then typically work in the shadows, encrypting all the user’s files, essentially preventing the user from viewing or accessing the files. A message will then be sent to the user demanding payment to decrypt the files. Even if paid, there is no guarantee the files will be unlocked.
Scams have been around for a long time, the Internet just provides a new method to deliver them. A frequent online scam we see is merchandise for sale that doesn’t exist. The internet offers the tool to set up a meet, where the victim is then robbed. Another frequent scam is the befriending of victims online, even making them think they are in love and will get married. Cyber-criminals may work on multiple victims for months at a time, and are rarely even in the same country. The victim will then be given a tragic story or reason as to why they need money, at which time the victim transfers money out of the country.
The list of cybercrimes goes on; the only limit to the types of crimes committed on the internet is the creativity of the cyber-criminal. As such people must be vigilant, here a few tips from on how to protect yourself:
- Make sure you have an up to date Anti-Virus Software and Firewall on your computer
- Ensure you update your operating system, i.e. enable automatic updates or schedule them weekly
- Do not open email attachments from unknown recipients
- If you are not sure about an email attachment from a trusted source, ask them
- Do not download files from unknown sources
- Never use the same password for multiple sites
- Ensure you backup your important data, such as photos, to an external hard drive that is not always attached to your computer or use an online backup program
- When buying merchandise in person make sure you meet in a well-lit public place
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
- Tell a friend where you are, never go to meet someone alone
- Always be suspicious when meeting people online and never share personal details such as date or birth, or banking information
- Never transfer money to someone you don’t know or haven’t met.