How to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime

Cybercrime is on the rise across the world. That’s precisely why we brought in a few experts to help.

Meryl D'Souza November 20, 2016

Lauren Bullen is a 23-year-old travel blogger and photographer from Australia with a deliberately styled wanderlust Instagram feed that is the envy of all her 700,000 followers.

So envious that one follower takes the time to painstakingly find the same exotic locations and take the exact same pictures. To the point where even their clothes  - and at times photo captions – match. See here for yourselves.

We once said that if imitation is flattery, then plagiarism has to be the expression of unconstrained glorification. And it may be, but this puts the follower, @diana_alexa, straight into stalker territory.

Lest you rest easy, it’s not just social media celebrities and companies like Yahoo that are susceptible to various forms of cybercrime. It’s happening to regular people too. 

When you have the chance, go through this long read that details the story of how an average Joe’s life comes crumbling down thanks to a Facebook imposter. You may sit there thinking this stuff doesn’t happen to you, but it’s like Gary Hibberd Managing Director at Agenci says, “it’s not a matter of if you will be a victim of cybercrime, but when.” 

If we’re being completely honest, the only way you can go get through without ever being the victim of any form of cyber attack is by not using the internet. Since we know that’s easier said than done, we brought in a few experts to drop some knowledge on how you can stay safe online.

Website deals
That website selling an iPhone 7 for AED 1 or that holiday package that costs less than a taxi from Jumeirah to International City isn’t real. “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” says Gary. “Cybercriminals are masters of manipulation. They prey on emotions. Don’t fall for it.”

Free apps
There are lots of fake free apps floating around. Even in your Play Store and App Store libraries. “Research the App, and understand what it is that you’re downloading,” suggests Gary. If it’s a photo editing tool, then it may understandably require access to your camera. However, if you’ve just downloaded a free game and it asks for access to your camera, microphone, address book and contacts – you should be very suspicious.” 

Phishing
Ever had those emails where a friend only sends you a link or asks for you to check out a link? Or perhaps you’ve received one from a bank you don’t have an account with notifying you of suspicious activity and asking you to click on the link to secure your account. Heino Gevers, Customer Experience Manager at Mimecast Middle East and Africa, wants you to know how to spot phishing emails:

  • Hit the reply button and look at the address you’re replying to. If it’s different from the sender’s email address, you can be sure it’s fake.
  • Use the mouse to hover over the provided URL. If this is different, then there’s a good chance it’s referring you to a malicious site.
  • Use technologies like Mimecast that will assist with validating the sender, the email contents and whether there are any components that can be malicious to you. It also supports end user enablement, which can assist organisations to build out their human firewall.

Passwords
You know the basics, right? Use alphanumerals and special characters. But according to Heino, here’s what you can do to help secure your various accounts further:

Disable the ‘remember’ feature: it’s best not to save passwords for any kind of device. Your computer can be hacked and your smartphone can be stolen. 

Use false answers to secret questions: Something personal can be ascertained through your social media accounts. Keep ‘em guessing.

Webcams
Take a page out of Mark Zuckerberg’s book and cover your webcam when you’re not using it. If you think that’s overreacting, we’d like to point you to the case of the woman targeted by ‘sextortionist’ Luis Mijangos where the hacker turned the woman’s laptop into bugging device which he used to spy on her. 

While you’re at it avoid adding unknown individuals to your video calling applications. Tony Zabaneh, Channel Systems Engineer at Fortinet, says, “In the generation of video calling, it is easy to fall prey to random individuals who add you to be friends. Via the webcam, unknown individuals gather information about your location and surroundings, and ask for personal information in an attempt to befriend you, and then scam you.” 

Online banking
In a world filled with online stores, it’s easy to use your debit or credit card details rather recklessly. Tony explains how you can ensure your transactions are secured: “All of these websites have a unique marker in the website address bar – which is a small padlock icon that indicates a secure communication between you and the server.’

Wi-Fi networks
Scott Manson, Cyber Security Leader for Middle East and Turkey at Cisco, says, “There’s almost no excuse for running an open unencrypted WiFi network.” Here’s why: a hacker taking advantage of your unprotected Wi-Fi can access all other devices connected to your network or worse, could be using it to download some very illegal stuff.

Second-hand devices
Sure, it may a great deal but Scott explains why you should resist going for second-hand devices: “Keep in mind that you did not have control over the networks the device may have been connected to. These devices may have been tampered with and the firmware may be old.”

You can never be too safe. So be sure to do all you can to protect yourself because the internet is dark and full of terrors.