According to statistics from McAfee’s Global Cost of Cybercrime report, cybercrime costs the South African economy about R5,8-billion a year.
In light of Safer Internet Day celebrated tomorrow (9 February 2016), consumers are urged to practice safer internet habits to avoid falling victim to cyberattacks that could lead to great financial losses and emotional stress.
This is according to Candice Sutherland, cyber liability specialist at Stalker Hutchison Admiral (SHA), who says the Internet poses various potential threats, such as privacy concerns, cyber stalking and identity theft to name but a few. “However, there are a few simple changes that consumers can make to protect themselves from cyber threats.”
She provides the below tips for consumers to safeguard themselves against any criminal activity.
Install anti-virus software on all devices
As a first line of defence against cybercrime, it is vital to install a high quality anti-virus and firewall on all devices that access the internet such as computers, smart phones and tablets. Anti-virus software protects the device by detecting viruses, spyware and worms. It is also advisable to update this software regularly to ensure maximum protection against threats.
Always be vigilant of phishing
Research by Symantec (a leading cyber security firm) found that one in every 214 e-mails sent in South Africa during 2014 was a phishing attack. Phishing is a technique which involves the cybercriminal sending official looking emails in an attempt to get consumers to reveal sensitive information such as their bank details, passwords as well as ID numbers. In the event that an email from a strange source with an odd email address is received requesting personal information, consumers are advised to never respond to these emails.
If the e-mail looks like it is from a legitimate source, such as a bank, but seems suspicious, rather contact the company that the email appears to be from to ascertain whether the email is fake. Fraudulent emails can usually be easily spotted as they very often use a generic salutation, such as “dear customer” rather than using a specific name and these emails often contain a combination of poor grammar, misspellings and odd phrasings.
Be careful with passwords
Whilst using the same password across various platforms such as social media or online banking makes it easier for consumers to manage all their accounts, reusing of passwords is not advised as it simultaneously makes multiple accounts vulnerable for cyber threats. For example, when cyber criminals manage to get access to your Gmail account they may then also be able to log into your online banking portal.
Consumers should rather use strong passwords of eight characters or more, comprising of a combination of letters, numbers and symbols for added security. It is also a good idea to update all passwords on a regular basis as a means of limiting the damage when a hacker may have gained access to one’s account in the past.
Keep your personal life personal
Many people share a lot of their personal lives online, but consumers need to think carefully about what they put on social media sites. Individuals can expose themselves to cyber stalking and identity theft as criminals are able to follow someone’s every move by tracking their social media activity.
By activating geo-tagging features on devices or “check-in” functions, consumers not only provide stalkers with their exact locations but also provide information pertaining to their friends and family. It is recommended that people avoid location based features and applications.
Upload photos with caution
Photos shared on social media can be used by cyber criminals to obtain personal information such as your home address, licence plate number, passport and ID number. Consumers should attempt to crop and blur areas of photos that contain personal information before they share the image on social media.
Review bank and credit card statements regularly
The damage caused by identity theft and cybercrime can be greatly reduced if one catches the criminal shortly after the data is stolen or after the data is used for fraudulent activity the first time. In an attempt to timeously catch cyber criminals, consumers are advised to review their monthly bank statements for anything out of the ordinary and alert the bank’s fraud department immediately if something is not right.
Be careful when using free WiFi hotspots
Consumers should be very careful about accessing their personal accounts while they are using a free Wi-Fi hotspot as they can be extremely vulnerable to hackers waiting for unsuspecting consumers to reveal their personal information.
“The opportunities presented by the internet are plentiful, however it is important that people are aware of the dangers on the internet. By implementing safe internet habits people will be able to use the internet responsibly as a tool to meet new people, share experiences and make life more convenient,” concludes Sutherland.