On-line fraud and cyber-criminals

As reported on UK news in the last 48 hours (22nd July 2016) over 1,000,000 frauds were reported in the UK in the last year more than all the other criminal activity combined.

'Cyber-criminal organizations don’t take summer vacations, and many people just don’t realize the security risks they are taking,' said Usman Choudhary, chief product officer at ThreatTrack Security. 'Criminals understand the seasonality of consumer search habits and exploit that information to their full potential.'

So what should people be watching out for? Here are five email and on-line threats to be aware of for both businesses and home users:

  1. Sensationalized political posts for 2016 elections – Today’s campaigns are fought not just on the airwaves, but also on the internet, as voters of all stripes will be searching voraciously for news and information about the candidates. Cyber-criminals will take advantage of election interest with a deluge of Trump/Clinton-style spam, advertisements and redirects throughout the summer to gather personal information and compromise devices. Be wary and check the URL before clicking.
  2. Phishing emails focused on travel and vacation – With many vacationers taking trips and using credit cards, people need to be extra vigilant about which emails and links they choose to open or click while on the road or when planning. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, fraudsters take in $1.3 billion a year in on-line hotel scams. Watch out for emails promising some kind of super discount and double check that website – trusted URLs should have a small lock and start with https:// as opposed to just http://. Don’t enter your information – especially payment – through a non-verified link. The old adage definitely applies here: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
    Zika virus and other health concerns – The Zika virus is a top story, and it’s only going to get more visibility as the Olympics in Brazil, the virus’ epicentre, gets closer. People are understandably a bit more anxious this summer about the virus and its health effects. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for instance, recently issued an alert warning about Zika investment scams. Cyber-criminals will continue to take advantage of this common fear to help mask their scams.
  3. Major sporting events – Any major news, entertainment or sporting event this summer will have a campaign behind it. Watch out for unsolicited emails and pop-up websites offering discounted tickets or other products and services. Be cautious before clicking on a link, banner ad or attachment.
  4. Kids on summer vacation – Children are home from school, sometimes unsupervised, and they tend to spend a lot of time on their devices during the summer months. Unless parents take precautions, children will find applications and other types of files to download that may not be safe or appropriate while parents are away at work. Installing a good parental control program will help minimize their vulnerability on the internet.
  5. Finally, don’t open unknown emails or divulge sensitive information unless you've verified the legitimacy of the organization, person or website. And don’t provide others with access to your devices or accounts. Be aware of unsolicited requests for tech support requiring the download of software that enables others to remotely access your PC. Hackers will use legitimate remote administration tools as weapons for breaking into networks. Likewise, employers should be sure to lock down these tools so only authorized users have access. While these tools provide added convenience for remote workers, they also serve as a potential gateway for attack.

As always, protect your systems against unnecessary vulnerabilities. Regularly update your applications with the latest software patches and be sure to install antivirus software and set it for automatic updates.