Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Internet Security: 10 Steps To Protect Yourself Against Cyber Criminals


According to PwC, a world leading company in forensics, cybercrime has become the second most reported economic crime in the world. The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) reports that of all crimes committed inthe UK, cybercrime is now number one.

In April 2016, Nigeria’s National Security Adviser (NSA) Major-General Babagana Monguno(rtd) revealed  that Nigeria lost N127bn to cybercrime through software piracy, intellectual property theft and malware attacks between 2013 and 2014. Also within the same period, e-payment fraud in the banking sector increased by 183%. He stated  that “The protection of activities in our cyberspace has become increasingly important to the security of our great nation”.

Norton, a top internet security service provider reports that about  “594 million people worldwide were victims of online crime. Cybercrime affects millions every year, yet consumers still do not take action to protect themselves”.

Now, that is staggering . Yet, people seem to be unaware of  how vulnerable they are to cyber criminals attacks. On facebook, it is common to see a status reading “Please my account has been hacked and hackers are posting pornographic content on my wall.  If you continue to see such, that is the reason..”. If online users are security conscious, they will do whatever it takes to protect themselves and prevent persons with malicious intent from compromising their public dignity.

This article was written to further enlighten social media users and other online consumers about the common tricks utilised by scammers and how to become more internet safety conscious. It is the belief that the following tips would guide you into taking neccessary precaution against this menace.

        1. Change your online passwords several times a year.
Ensure to use different passwords for every online account that you posses. Also make your passwords difficult to guess. Please don’t use  your birthday date or any combination of it for passwords. Your birthday date is the easiest to remember and that is why cyber fraudsters will always want to obtain it under any guise. Make it difficult for them to guess your online and offline passwords. Cultivate the culture of changing your passwords periodically to be steps ahead of the bad guys.

      2. Avoid posting sensitive or personal information on social media
There is no going back when you do so. Even when you delete it from your account, anyone could have seen or downloaded that picture, text or video immediately you posted it online. Any information you post online can be used for criminal purposes. Inspite of the maximum security settings that social media sites employ, it may still not be enough to prevent cyber criminals from gaining access to your password –no matter the complexity of the account settings or your password. Still, use the privacy settings on your online accounts to minimise the risks. The key thing is—share as little personal information as possible on social media.

    3.   Be careful of public WiFi hotspots.
Not all WiFi hotspots at public places such as restaurants, hotels, schools etc have adequate security protection. Persons with malicious intent can gain access to the network and steal your login information and view your browsing activities. Avoid logging into your online bank accounts, email, social media or any site that requires your personal details to login.  You can never tell what online scammers will use such information for –it is  not always good. Use a credible virtual private network(VPN) service provider when using a public Wifi hotspot.

     4.  Backup sensitive data online and make hard copies
Currently, a type of malware called ransomware exists. When this malware gains acces to to your computer, it restricts access to your files or threatens their destruction except an activity is a command or action is carried out. In tackling this issue, backup your sensitive data online using cloud or virtual services. Also print and secure them at a physical location. What is out of reach from hackers cannot be used against you.

   5.   Protect your computer.
To prevent your computer from malicious scripts and make it hard for hackers to compromise your personal or company system, install a good antivirus program on your system. Go for the tested and trusted ones. Update them regularly. If they don’t come with firewalls, put on the firewall that came with your operating system. Regularly check for your operating system updates and install them. Don’t download email attachments from people you don’t know. Even if you can identify the email sender, make effort to confirm from the sender if they had actually sent the attachment. Verifying an email attachment before downloading is well worth the effort.

      6. Don’t fall for work-at-home scams.
You may come across several websites offering tempting job opportunites which you can do and get paid from the comfort of your home. Don’t fall for them. Take your time to investigate the persons and firms involved in such offers. You can never tell the motives behind such opportunites. Many of such job offers require you to pay a “token membership fee” to secure your spot. 

     7.  Smartphone App Scams.
Many free games and app are designed to steal your personal information.
When you install such apps, most times designed as free games, they contain codes that will search for vital infromation stored in your phone and transmit it to an online database. Not every app on Google Play Store, Apple and Blackberry stores are legitimate. Anybody can develop a smartphone application and upload it for everyone to download. Make sure you research on the app developers to verify their authenticity.

      8. Be on the look-out for extremely discounted online shopping deals
There are sites that offer prices for products and services at discounts that are too good to be true. At the end, you pay for this products while giving away your private information such as card details, date of birth, house address and others. These are useful information that scammers use to defraud unsuspecting consumers. Also, you might not get anything for what you have paid for. Instead, shop on sites that have credibility. Search the internet for reveiws of any online shopping site that you want to buy anything from. There are many online shopping sites that have been compromised with shoppers being the targets. 

9. Learn to use the two-factor authentication(TFA) security level
TFA is a technology that increases security by incorporating requirements beyond a password. TFA is an added online logging security that makes it difficult for cyber criminals to steal your passwords and compromise your online accounts. Several email service providers and soical media sites offer TFA free of charge. Google, Twitter and Facebook offer TFA services. Most TFA require that you priovide very strong passwords and pins which change periodically. These pins are sent to your phones as text messages or through mobile apps. Your online accounts are better secured when you utilise TFA security on them. 

1     10.  Protect yourself from social media scams.
These scams are in the form of posts on social media sites, online social forums etc, requiring you to complete surveys and opinion polls for vouchers, gift cards or money. Most times, you will have to supply your personal information which they intend to steal for unscrupulous purposes.
Also, when you share pictures of your tickets to social events and places such as concerts, theaters, sports, conferences etc on social media, these fraudsters are able to create fake tickets from the bar codes gotten from the pictures! Imagine when the barcode scanner at the security point rejects your ticket! It may have been your undoing. Don’t post anything of value that can be used by scammers on social media.

Do all you can to protect yourself online. Make it difficult for scammers and fraudsters to guess your passwords. Frequently change your passwords.  Once a month will be good. Avoid posting sensitive materials online that can be used against you. Always ensure that your antivirus is up-to-date. Make sure your firewall is on. Don’t download attachments from people you don’t know. Even when you know them, confirm from them if they had sent the files. In becoming internet security conscious, we go ahead of these guys and prevent them from a harming us. 

Have you been a victim of cybercrime? Please fell free to post your experiences, comments and opinions below.