Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  27 Jan 2010

INFOTECH: Be Smart - Don't Let Cybercrime Catch You Out


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Cybercrime, by definition, is any form of criminal activity that takes place within the realms of cyberspace. This type of crime is rife and is ever on the increase, with cybercriminals constantly coming up with new ways to take advantage of unwary internet users.

From phishing to pharming to worms, Trojans, bots and viruses, the number of threats involved with the Internet is astounding. The 419 scam remains among the most common types of cybercrime, generally taking the form of an email with the sender requesting help to transfer large sums of money. In return, the sender offers commission of a ridiculous amount of money. The scammers then request money to pay for some of the costs associated with the transfer. Once this money is sent, the scammers will either disappear immediately or try to get the victim to send more money with claims of continued problems with the transfer.

While this scam continues to catch people out, it is being eclipsed by another, increasingly more prevalent form of cybercrime - identity theft. This type of cybercrime takes place when criminals obtain key pieces of confidential information about people and use this information to conduct fraudulent activities in their name.

Identity theft and resulting fraud is dangerous for both individuals and businesses, and the implications are widespread. Once criminals get hold of details like ID numbers, bank accounts, credit cards, addresses and so on they can open bank accounts in other people's names, steal money, conduct fraudulent transactions and so on. This could result in the victim being made bankrupt, blacklisted or even jailed for illegal activities.

In order to protect themselves from online identity theft, users need to be aware of the tactics scammers use to steal confidential information. In particular, users need to be extremely careful with internet financial transactions.

Users should never access online banking from a public terminal at the risk of falling victim to keystroke loggers that record exactly which keys are pressed. When visiting an online banking sight, look out for the padlock at the bottom right hand side of the screen that reveals an encrypted connection.

If this padlock is not evident, leave the sight immediately as the connection is not secure and details could be phished. If the security certificate of the site has expired, once again leave it immediately as information sent over the connection will not be secure. There is also a green bar next to the URL window in most internet browsers. This bar will change colour to yellow or red if the website you are visiting is known to be involved in anything suspect.

Remember that a bank will never email you asking you to confirm confidential details. Under no circumstances should you click on any links in emails purportedly sent from a bank. These will take users to a mirror site that looks like the real bank website, but is not encrypted and will be used to harvest details. If at any stage you are unsure of anything, phone the bank and ask them to confirm that this information was requested, or to report the scammers.

Cybercrime is constantly evolving as scammers work to keep ahead of new technology, and it is impossible to predict which way this crime will go in the future. However, one thing is for certain, with the World Cup due to take place in South Africa soon, the attentions of the world, and therefore the attentions of cybercriminals, will be firmly focused on the country.

Internet users need to make a conscious effort to be aware of the latest in cybercriminal activities, and take steps to protect themselves from their activities to ensure that they do not fall victim to this growing form of crime.


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