Preventing Cyber Crime

The end of the year is a jolly time to go shopping, with sales and seasonal specials every where! The guilt to shop excessively lessens as everything looks like a potential gift, and what’s Christmas without gifts for your friends and loved ones?

However, the end-of -the year festive season this is also a time for hackers and cyber criminals on the prowl to victimize cyber users and steal their credit card and online banking information. Last year, according to a survey done by Symantec consumer division Norton, 70 per cent of Internet users in Singapore have fallen victim to cyber crimes. Majority of the crimes went unprosecuted.

With the shopping season in full swing, it’s important to learn how to protect your online transaction accounts, especially if you shop online.

Be alert – Do not take for granted that the website you’ve arrived at is indeed the website you wanted to surf. There is an information theft method known as phishing, which is a way of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords and online transaction account details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Phishing is usually carried out through email, instant messaging or public comments on blogs and forums, ultimately directing users to a fake website whose appearance and mechanism are almost identical to the legitimate one.

Before you submit your details to log onto the website, always check its url. A phishing website will have a url or domain name with a slight difference from the legitimate website as no two entities can have the same domain name at the same time.

Avoid conducting online transactions at public hotspots or on public computers – No matter how the ads glamorize the convenience of transacting “anytime, anywhere”, you are using public wireless network to connect to the internet, and that can leave you vulnerable to malicious users and hackers in the vicinity. If you have to transfer funds on the go, do so on the good old ATM. The slight inconvenience incurred will be nothing compared to what you would have to go through if your account was hacked into. Don’t forget to log out of all your accounts when you’re using public computers or public wireless connection.

Have adequate anti-virus software for your computer and smartphone – Good anti-virus software can help you to locate and eliminate malware, spyware, and related problems. Download.com offers free anti-virus software and trials of premium software, accompanied with user reviews.

Turn on your computer’s firewall protection feature – It’s free, and it warns you when you’re trying to download something or surf a website that may contain malicious content.

Be wary of providing personal information via a website you know nothing about

When you do online transactions, make sure that you only do so on a secure website like those with a URL that start with “https” or have a TRUSTe or VeriSign seal (http://www.verisign.com.sg/trust-seal/increase-clicks/index.html which are usually on the bottom or side of the page). If you don’t see these anywhere, you run the risk of submitting your personal information to a site that may be a fraud.

Avoid getting taken in by common scams – Ignore pop-ups and emails congratulating you about winning the lottery. These are common methods used to trick you into providing your personal information and money.

Monitor the online activities of your children– Children should only have access to a computer located in a central area of your home. Parents should check their browser and e-mail activity. This is because children may access websites that compromise the security of your computer without your knowledge. A wise thing to do is to use parental control software that limits the types of sites that the user can gain access to.

– This article first appeared in a November issue lifestyle magazine