Cyber Crime – how to protect yourself
With the flurry of online spending during the holiday season, now is a good time to review how well you’re protected against Cyber Crime.
The internet brings many positives but it’s also allowed fraudsters to develop numerous and elaborate ways to exploit unwitting users by attempting to steal money, private information and even personal identity. Hackers focus on leveraging vulnerable computer systems to obtain data. Don’t despair, there are measures you can take to limit your exposure to Cyber Crime.
So how can you protect yourself?
Prevention can be straight-forward. The rule of thumb is – the more difficult you make it for online criminals, the more likely they are to leave you alone.i
- Choose strong passwords that can’t be easily guessed. Use at least eight characters or more and a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid combinations of your own, or family members’ names, dates of birth or addresses. It’s particularly important to select strong unique passwords for email and online banking.
- Keep passwords in a safe place (not on your computer or laptop) and try not to use the same password for everything.
- Change passwords regularly. This can limit damage done by someone who’s already gained access to your account. If you notice something suspicious, immediately change your password.
- Protect personal information
Giving out personal details is essential to purchase online, so in order to share information safely, here is a guide:
- Be alert to fake emails. A message may be fraudulent if there are misspellings, poor grammar, odd phrasings, website addresses with strange extensions, website addresses that are entirely numbers where there are normally words, and anything else out of the ordinary. Anything that tells you to act quickly or your account will be closed are used by scammers – don’t believe them.
- Don’t respond to email messages that ask for personal information. Legitimate companies won’t use email to ask for your personal information. When in doubt, contact the company by phone or type the web address into your browser. Don’t click on the links in these messages as they may take you to fraudulent or malicious websites.
- Steer clear of fraudulent websites used to steal personal information. A shopping, banking or other website where sensitive information is required should have an “s” after “http” (i.e. https://www.yourbank.com). The “s” stands for Secure and should appear when you attempt to login or provide sensitive data. Another sign is the small lock icon in the bottom of your browser.
- Pay attention to privacy policies. Understand how an organisation might collect and use your personal information.
- Guard your email address. Spammers and phishers sometimes send millions of messages to email addresses that may or may not exist. If you don’t recognise the sender’s name it’s best to delete it.
- Update your computer
- Regularly update when software fixes and patches become available. It makes it more difficult for hackers to access your system and may cause them to look elsewhere.
- Security and privacy settings can usually be configured without any special knowledge – try the “Help” feature of your software. Alternatively, consult someone you trust or contact the software vendor.
- Review bank and credit card statements regularly.
- It’s one of the easiest ways to catch online crimes shortly after they’ve happened. Early detection can reduce impact.
- Many banks use fraud protection systems to flag unusual behaviour – i.e. large or unusual purchases. They’ll often call you to confirm these – take those calls seriously. This can be the first hint your personal data has been compromised.