Poverty may be the mother of crime, but lack of good sense is the father
– Jean De La Bruyere
Cyber Crime is steadily on the rise. It is not only big corporations that are affected; the average man in the street is also targeted on a regular basis. With the advent of smart phones Cyber Crime is no longer limited to computers but criminals are now also able to gain access to your data and sensitive information via your cell phone or tablet. The more you rely on modern technology the more available you are to becoming a victim of Cyber Crime.
Cyber criminals can target you via the production and dissemination of malicious code (i.e. hacking etc.) or through internet fraud (phishing etc.). The list of scams grows daily, thus it is only through constant vigilance that you can secure your internet transactions. Ignorance is not an excuse and it is up to each user of technology to take responsibility for their actions and to exhibit good common sense when operating in the Cyber Universe.
There are numerous authorities and industry bodies that exist to help you navigate through the world of Cyber Crime. The Internet Service Providers’ Association – Code of Conduct Provides information on spam and scams, and a facility to ‘Lodge a Complaint’ against an ISPA member or ‘Request a Take-Down’ of infringing information, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre – Safety Tips Provides information on Phishing, Card skimming and ATM fraud, and Identity Theft.
Google provides a handy summary of issues to be aware of in order to operate safely on the internet, to prevent Cyber Crime, among which are things like strong passwords. Strong passwords are the first line of defence. Do not use the same password for all online accounts (one key opening all locks is a poor security decision). Write down passwords to remember them but do not leave them where they are readily accessible by anyone. Make sure that your password is made up of letters, numbers and symbols (do not use ‘12345’, ‘password’, your cell number, your birthday, your pets name, your e-mail address etc.). Create a strong password as follows:-
- Choose a phrase you know well and that is easy to remember i.e. there is safety in numbers
- Convert the first letter of each word to a CAPITAL i.e. ThereIsSafetyInNumbers
- Convert some letters to numbers i.e. all ‘e’ to number ‘3’ i.e.Th3r3IsSaf3tyInNumb3rs
- Convert some letters to special characters i.e. all ‘i’ to ‘!’ i.e. Th3r3!sSaf3ty!nNumb3rs
When using public computers to access private accounts make sure to properly sign out of your account before closing the browser. Be cautious when using a public network that you don’t know i.e. using the free Wi-Fi at your local cafe. The service provider is able to monitor all traffic on their network, which could include your personal information. Avoid doing important activities like banking or shopping over public networks
When accessing a website, especially when conducting financial transactions, ensure that the web address begins with https:// – which signals that your connection to the website is encrypted. Some browsers also include a ‘closed lock’ icon in the address bar to indicate more clearly that your connection is encrypted.
You should set your computer, laptop or cell phone to automatically lock when it goes to sleep or lock it when you finish using it.
Keep devices clean of malware (software designed to damage and take control of your computer). If you have malware on your computer, you may see things like: Pop-up ads, unwanted toolbars, inappropriate Google search results or ads etc. Check your computer for programs that you don’t recognise, and uninstall them; always keep your browser and operating system up to date; watch what you download (without meaning to, you may click a link that installs malware on your computer); pay attention to the fine print details and any auto-ticked tick boxes when downloading.
Microsoft also provides a range of tips to enhance your privacy on the internet, including to be cautious about what identifiable information you publish about yourself or your family on the internet. Anything you write or share, on web pages that can be seen by anyone with an online connection, may be considered public. Once you have posted information, even if you delete it soon afterwards, it may circulate quickly and easily. Stop and think before uploading images from your mobile device, this is a quick and easy way to share photos, but you need to be sure that the photos are appropriate to post online.
Not everything you read online is true, accurate or reliable. You should always assess the validity of the information before accepting it as fact.
Your smartphone can be accessed just like a computer so ensure you that it is properly set up and secured (with anti-virus protection) to prevent access by cyber criminals via your internet connection.
5 Cyber security habits to develop
- Do ensure that all your accounts have strong passwords (that are not easy to decipher).
- Do keep your personal and banking information private (never respond to an e-mail or sms that asks you to insert or update your details by clicking on a website link provided in the content of the message).
- Do be selective about what type of information you share on social media sites (make use of privacy settings)
- Do use common sense (be wary of emails that claim you have won a prize, or inherited money).
- If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Never underestimate the value of using common sense
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