Possibly one of the saddest aspects of the COVID19 pandemic is that it triggered a wave of scams, especially online ones. Sadly, it appears that these cannot just be vaccinated away. People are going to need to be highly vigilant throughout their lives. Here are some tips to help.
Understand that nobody is “too small to be a target”
You’ve probably already been the victim of a real-world crime, even if you’ve long since forgotten about it. For example, you’ve probably had your pocket or bag picked at some point or had a bike stolen. Maybe you’ve had something taken from a hotel room. The thief might not have gained much but they didn’t have to do much to get it. The same idea applies online.
If you make yourself the digital equivalent of the person who wanders away leaving their bag wide open on the table, you can expect the same result. What’s more, the consequences can become even more severe.
A thief can only steal a physical item once. If, however, a thief steals a password someone uses for multiple accounts, they potentially have access to all of those accounts. If that wasn’t bad enough, the information in those accounts could give them further access to more accounts.
Technology is your first line of defence
A lot of cybersecurity essentially boils down to basic digital housekeeping. None of this is difficult, it just requires self-discipline. Here are some key points to remember.
- Security starts with your internet connection. Make sure your home WiFI system is protected by a strong, unique password. Ideally, change it regularly. For more security, use a VPN as well. When you’re out and about, consider using mobile data instead of a public WiFi connection. If you must use public WiFi, always use a VPN for anything other than casual browsing.
- Watch where you use your devices. Make sure that nobody can see over your shoulder.
- Always use up-to-date versions of firmware, operating systems and apps. Apply all updates promptly.
- Have proper security software on any devices which support it. That means regular computers, phones and tablets. Security software is often known as “antivirus software”. This is a convenient term but it’s also a misleading one. It’s been many years since viruses were the only threat people needed to worry about.
- Take passwords seriously. Change default ones (unless they are unique and strong). Use a unique, strong password for each account. Add in two-factor authentication as much as you can. That’s combining something you know (e.g. a password) with something you have (e..g a one-time code).
Watch out for social engineering
Technology has also made it easier for criminals to carry out low-level social-engineering attacks. For the most part, these tend to be by email or text. The major giveaway for emails is that they generally use the email address instead of the recipient’s name. If they purport to be from a legitimate company, there will probably be slight errors in the contact details.
It can be much harder to spot fake text messages, especially since numbers can be faked. The golden rule here is simply to be wary of all text messages. Never click on any links sent through them. If a company is sending you information, go to the legitimate website and find the page there. You can then enter any details given in the text message.
Scam phone calls are less common but still not unusual. These are generally done using autodiallers so you’ll often hear a slight pause between you answering and a person speaking. You may also hear a speaker who sounds artificial. This is likely to be a recording. Alternatively, they may have a foreign accent as many calls are made from offshore.
If you’re worried about your finances please get in touch.