Cyber-crime - We protect our homes so why not our homepage?
In Scotland today, most of us have access to smartphones, social media and the internet and understand how to use this technology, but so do cyber-criminals…
With an ever-increasing amount of our personal details being uploaded to the worldwide web and shared so openly with vast numbers of people, questions are raised around why we don’t ensure the adequate protections are in place for our cyber-property and the access that this permits to the financial and data aspects of our daily lives.
Previous crime-prevention initiatives implemented by bodies such as the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and its prior constituent police forces have focussed on prevention areas such as improving locks in the home, installing of CCTV, as well as stopping person-focussed crimes, such as sexual assault and domestic violence with important messages being delivered to the masses. These have been particularly successful in educating and raising awareness to the public. However, more recent initiatives looking at scams, specifically in relation to cyber-crime, have been less effective.
1960s crime prevention posters
Research conducted in 2016 by the Scottish Government, the ‘Scottish Household Survey’, highlights that as little as 31% of Scottish adults regularly change their online passwords, and as few as 62% have up-to-date anti-virus software. Reasons behind this have been attributed to regional differences in understanding cyber-crime, based on factors such as the disparity in the range of information available to the ‘average’ member of society and big businesses. There is the implication that there are greater levels of accessibility between a select few and the cyber-security industry, meaning that the amount of information in relation to true cyber-security is limited to the general public. This not only limits the understanding of the crime itself, but also the severity of repercussions of these offences.
There are many different forms of cyber-crime, but there are a few common types that you can identify if you know what you are looking for -
Email Phishing / Phishing scam – An email (sometimes from a familiar-looking source) asking you to enter your username and password or financial details. Very often these emails advise of a problem with your account(s) and ask you to login to confirm. By entering your correct information, you are handing your details to these criminals on a plate. Only respond to legitimate emails from known sources – check the address of origin and do not proceed if unsure. Phishing scams can also come in the form of texts, letters and phone calls (sometimes referred to as ‘vishing’). In all cases, by calling the company on their official telephone number, you can confirm if the communication is from them. The official contact details are available on statements, agreement documents and websites of the actual companies.
Access control or ‘Ransomware’ – An insidious form of cyber-crime that takes over control of your device using a virus and ‘locks’ files and systems access, setting a financial ‘ransom’ to unlock the virus. If this happens, do not pay! It may appear that the virus has been removed when the sum is paid, but remnants can remain that do the same thing further down the line, which could cost you again. By giving in to this type of scammer and paying, you show them that you are vulnerable to blackmail and further future attacks.
So, what can you do to reduce the chances of becoming a victim of cyber-crime? Here are our top tips for locking out the cyber-criminals –
- Ensure your passwords are unique and non-generic
A combination of 3 random words and letters will help to protect your passwords. Ensure you don’t use any personal information, such as mothers’ maiden name or partner or pets’ names. Use a different password for your email address than you use for other logins and ensure you don’t use predictable replacement of letters with numbers (e.g. P455WORD). You can learn more about being smart with passwords at https://www.cyberaware.gov.uk/passwords
- Use secondary verification methods such as fingerprint or facial recognition
Secondary security methods make it twice as hard for scammers to gain access to your devices. By ensuring you have secondary verification processes in place, you can stop illicit activity on your mobile devices, such as transferring funds or purchasing items online.
- Install anti-virus software to protect your devices
Your internet service provider can usually help with this. Beware of unrelated, products obtained from free sites. Trust known brands – remember that it may cost you a monthly fee in the short-term but could save you thousands by protecting you from the scammers.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi to conduct financial business
Ensure you use a secure connection. Look at the address bar for “https” at the start of the address and make sure your card details are secured with secondary verification, such as fingerprint or facial recognition. The use of a VPN, or ‘Virtual Private Network’ is an encrypted and more secure way of connecting to the internet.
There are a multitude of resources available that can help. You can report cyber-crime by dialling 999 (emergency) or 101 (non-emergency), or in person at any police station. Action Fraud (0300 123 2040) can help with cyber-crime at any time of the day or night, as it happens.
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