The focus of the final week of National Cyber Security Awareness Month centers around the education of local law enforcement officers to enable them to help their communities deal with the effects of cybercrime and providing the general public with ways to protect themselves from becoming victims of identity theft, fraud, phishing and other forms of cybercrime.
A recent article on the website Politico states, “Cybercrime costs the global economy up to $575 billion annually, according to a new report, with the U.S. taking a $100 billion hit, the largest of any country. That total represents up to 0.8 percent of the global economy, according to the report out Monday from McAfee, now known as Intel Security, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. For the U.S., the estimated $100 billion cost means 200,000 lost jobs and is almost half of the total loss for the G-8 group of Western countries.” (Kopan, 2014)
But the effects of cybercrime aren’t limited to financial damages incurred by companies alone. An article on CNNMoney tells us that “Every two seconds, another American becomes a victim of identity fraud.
The number of identity fraud victims jumped to 13.1 million in 2013, a new report from Javelin Strategy & Research finds. That’s an increase of 500,000 from 2012 and the second highest number of victims since Javelin began conducting its annual study in 2004.Identity fraud occurs when someone’s personal information is used to access money, while identity theft is when personal information is accessed, even if it isn’t used for financial gain. “(Ellis, 2014)
So what can the average consumer do to protect themselves from becoming a victim of cybercrime? The following are some very useful tips for keeping yourself – and your data – safe:
1. Use anti-virus software: Your net-savvy friend may tell you that he doesn’t have anti-virus on his computer because it slows things down. But look at it this way, one wrong click and he may have to make the entire college project from scratch.
2. Didn’t expect, don’t click: The golden rule: Hackers infect PCs with malware by luring users to click on a link or open an attachment. Social media has helped criminals profile individuals. They can see what you’re interested in or what you [post] about and send you crafted messages, inviting you to click on something. Don’t.
3. Different site, different passwords: Keeping a common password for all online accounts is a lot like having the same key for all locks. Only difference being that it is a lot easier to get hold of the online key. Also never reuse your main email password. But most online users own accounts in over a dozen sites. So either try and use clever variations or start doing some really heavy memory-enhancement exercise.
4. If in doubt, block: Just say no to social media invitations (such as Facebook-friend or LinkedIn connection requests) from people you don’t know. It’s the cyber equivalent of inviting home the guy with an eye-patch who stares at you at the bus stop.
5. Don’t bank on public wi-fi: Most Wi-Fi hotspots do not encrypt information and once a piece of data leaves your device headed for a web destination, any ‘packet sniffer’ (a programme which can intercept data) can intercept your unencrypted data. If you choose to bank online on public Wi-Fi, that’s very sensitive data you are transferring.
6. Only shop online on secure sites: Before entering your card details, always ensure that the locked padlock or unbroken key symbol is showing in your browser. Additionally, the beginning of the online retailer’s internet address will change from “http” to “https” to indicate a connection is secure. Be wary of sites that change back to http once you’ve logged on.
7. Lock down your FB account: Remove your home address, phone number, date of birth and any other information that could used to fake your identity. Similarly you might want to delete or edit your “likes” and “groups” – the more hackers know about you, the more convincing a phishing email they can spam you with. Change your privacy settings to “friends” from “friends to friends”.
8. Don’t store your card details on websites: Err on the side of caution when asked if you want to store your credit card details for future use. Mass data security breaches (where credit card details are stolen en masse) aren’t common, but why take the risk? The extra 90 seconds it takes to key in your details each time is a small price to pay. (TNN, 2013)
Ellis, B. (2014). Personal Finance. Retrieved from CNNMoney: http://money.cnn.com/2014/02/06/pf/identity-fraud/
Kopan, T. (2014). Cybercrime costs $575 billion a year, $100 billion to US. Retrieved from Politico: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/06/cybercrime-yearly-costs-107601.html
TNN. (2013). Work&Life. Retrieved from iDIVA: http://idiva.com/news-work-life/12-ways-to-protect-yourself-from-cyber-crime/21449