CyberCrime : Are You Smarter than Your Smart Phone?

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Cybercrime rates are going down, but the cost of the individual crimes is rising. How can you protect yourself? Image by Decoded Science

Cybercrime rates are going down, but the cost of the individual crimes is rising. How can you protect yourself? Image by Decoded Science

Everything we do that involves a computer is vulnerable to hackers. This applies to both individuals and corporations.

The more we go into the ‘information age,’ the more we rely more on our gadgets than on our common sense when it comes to security and privacy. Nowadays, everything is about computers and smart phones, and online shopping and banking, which opens up the door to a variety of computer crimes or cyber-crimes.

We can break cybercrime down into two categories: Destructive crime (viruses and so on) and crimes that access and exploit information; hacking, phishing, and identity theft to name a few.

How Secure is your Smart Phone? 

Almost everyone has a smart phone these days and many are savvy enough to connect their household gadgets and computers to it.  But the Smartphone’s smart-home interface can pose a danger to your privacy. The California security firm Proof Point said hackers have penetrated home networks, connecting multimedia centers, televisions and at least one refrigerator  to create a bot net.  (a botnet pools the computing power of a number of low-level devices, typically without the user knowing, to send phishing or spam emails, or launch attacks).  

Along with smart phones and our other darling electronic gadgets, people are now converting their homes into Smart homes. The smart home is a growing trend where homeowners are able to control alarms, locks, lights, and other devices via their home network and the Internet, which makes the entire home vulnerable. If a hacker can access your home network, he or she can unlock your doors with the click of a mouse.

This could put an Internet-age twist on home burglaries; such an attack could become a crime spree in several neighborhoods if a few hackers were to work together on it. It may seem a bit far-fetched now that a crime spree of this nature could take place, but it really isn’t. This is the new reality.

Social Media: To Share or not to Share 

Of course, one of the things that we cannot get away from because we are hooked on social media is the “sharing” concept. Our friends will share things with us in our emails and especially on our social media page which we never question but happily share away again, with our family and friends.

Well, take notice – this is one way that hackers are able to sharpen their phishing skills . The links that we share and click into can be booby traps filled with viruses waiting to launch into your contacts and friends list.  We constantly hear warnings about not opening link is or messages sent from people we don’t know via email, but do we really pay attention to this on social media when the message comes from a friend?

Targeting the Target 

As you may have heard (and experienced) Target was recently hacked; the attackers intercepted 40 million debit and credit card numbers between Nov 27 and Dec 15, 2013. According to Target CEO Gregg Steinhafael, in an interview with CNBC, they discovered the malware at the point of sale terminals. This attack led to the compromise of up to 70 million customers’ personal data, including mailing addresses, email addresses and phone numbers.

Cyber Crime: What to Do?

A  2013 Norton Report revealed that despite the decrease in overall cybercrime, the average cost per victim has victim has risen. The global price tag of consumer cybercrime is $113Billion annually, and the cost per cybercrime victim is up 50 percent.

Cybercrime has no boundaries; you and I could be a victim on any given day.  One of the weaknesses is with our mobile devices, but our online activities and even upgrading our homes can make us vulnerable to hackers.  So how do we reduce our risks? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Protect your devices.
  • Set up secure home networks. If you’re not sure how to do this, contact a local computer networking professional.
  • Leave door locks off of your smart home gadget list.
  • Install robust virus protection and anti-malware software on all devices, including mobile devices.
  • When making online payments, ensure that the URL says HTTPS and not HTTP.
  • Don’t click on links if you get an email from your bank or any financial institution – instead, go directly to the company’s website. Run virus scans frequently.
  • If you are logging in to your bank’s website or any payment page, and your login blinks so you have to log in twice, run a virus scan before logging back in again, this could be an inserted login.
  • Don’t share your personal information via social media, and always log out of everything when you’re done.

Cybercrime and the Future

If you take care, and teach your family to remain secure as well, you can reduce your risks of being hacked. Will there be a change in our behavior as a nation, due to these risks? Perhaps a movement back to paper money, to avoid drained bank accounts? Only time will tell.

 

 

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