Ten or more years ago, our digital assets were at less risk of being wiped out because the criminal threat actor hadn’t thought of using technology on a grand scale to generate money. In the modern time we live in, the general public and businesses, both small and large, are getting hit with digital extortion and other like-minded criminal enterprise schemes.
As we all know, one of the primary duties of the police is to prevent and investigate crimes. Part of that duty comes through educating the public about trends in criminal activities and ways to prevent being a victim.
In cybercrime cases law enforcement officers are facing, the initial contact with the victim should have an educational piece. Here are my top six cybercrime prevention tips to pass along to a victim. These are not in order of importance.
1. Know your digital footprint
A key component in understanding why a person has become a victim is having the victim take stock of where they are in the virtual world. Email addresses, social media accounts, forums and online merchants are just a few areas that we expose information about ourselves. By knowing the details about our digital footprint, it will help us detect suspicious emails and text messages from criminals posing as real companies or fictitious people.
2. Educate yourself
Many of the cybercrimes out there require one important part to work, they need the victim to be a part of the crime. They need the victim to click the link to a fake website or to download the malicious software. There are thousands of cases of cybercrime occurring every second. Many of them could have been prevented if the victim knew what to look for. Educating yourself with what criminals are doing by reading the news on current trends and preventative measures.
3. Slow down the click
Cybercriminals have figured out that most of us have a short attention span and are digitally lazy. We are not spending a lot of time verifying online content. We are skimming through emails and webpages not looking for the red flags. If we were more vigilant, we would notice spelling mistakes in the company name, weird phrases, and odd requests that are unusual for the person or company to make. Be suspicious and don’t click until you feel safe.
4. Strong passwords
Surprisingly this message has been blaring on the loudspeaker for some time and many have not heeded the warnings. Having a strong password AND having unique passwords for online and Internet-connected accounts are the best ways to protect your information. Using password manager applications will help you keep it order.
5. Backup your data
Your most important data is at the most risk when your computer is on. When the computer is off, there is no way in most cases to remove, alter, copy or block access to the data. Backing up your data regularly and keeping a copy of that data in another location will give you peace of mind if anything bad were to happen. Operating System, built-in backup applications or paid ones will help. Online Cloud storage applications and websites are also available. For the business, a continuity plan is very important to ensure you’re not offline for a long time which cost money.
6. When in doubt, call
In the age of connected communications we take it for granted that we are speaking to the right person instead of the con artist they are. Social engineered scams were created to trick us into travelling the easy road. Con artists prey on people that may not be computer savvy and are not prepared to question what they see. If you are reading an email, or text message, or taking a phone call from someone asking you for our personal information, banking information — or for that matter anything you are not comfortable giving — DON’T GIVE IT UP. Pick up the phone and call the company’s main line and see what’s what. Your gut instinct may help you keep your personal information safe.
Nick Ibbott is a detective in the Cybercrime and Technical Data Recovery Unit of an Ontario municipal police force. Nick has 30 years of experience, the majority in undercover units. He is a subject matter expert in online and cybercrime investigations, drug enterprise operations, search warrant drafting, and techniques to move cases forward. Nick regularly provides training to law enforcement agencies in areas that will impact their abilities to investigate crimes. The views expressed in this article are solely the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the police force he is employed with.
* Editor’s note: Attention Blue Line readers! You’ll be seeing more from Nick Ibbott in the future so stay tuned!