How to protect yourself from cybercrime?

Publication Date: Aug 16, 2020
 

How to protect yourself from cybercrime?
Article by Claude Calleja published on the Sunday Times of Malta on 16th August 2020

It is easy to believe that the only form of cybercrime that you must worry about is hackers stealing your financial information. However, there is more that should concern you.  Cybercriminals often use known exploits or software bugs to gain access to your system. By patching exploits and vulnerabilities, you are less likely to become a target of cybercrime. 

Cybercrime in all its forms is a crime committed using a computer or other electronic devices such as a telephone, computer or tablet. The tools used to commit the crime vary from identity theft to security breaches, but cybercrime encompasses a wide range of crimes, from theft of personal information to cyberbullying and cyberattacks.  Basically these are malicious activities that has no financial motive and is only intended to cause harm. 

There are many ways to protect yourself from cybercrime, but the first step is education, and provided that you have already done that, here are 11 tips to protect yourself from cybercrime:

1. Use an anti-virus and anti-malware software
Anti-virus software and anti-malware are computer programs used to prevent, detect, and remove viruses and malware.  A computer virus and malware are types of computer programs that is any software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or computer network and the data by making use their existing security weaknesses. The term payload means what the virus or malware was designed to do. 

2. Use strong passwords
Do not repeat your passwords on different sites and change your passwords regularly. Make them complex. That means using a combination of at least 10 letters, numbers, and symbols. A password management application can help you to keep your passwords locked down. A weak password can give an opportunity for your computer system to get hacked, and once hacked total control is given to the perpetrator.

3. Keep your software updated
This is especially important with your operating systems and internet security software. Cybercriminals frequently use known exploits, or flaws, in your software to gain access to your system. Patching those exploits and flaws can make it less likely that you’ll become a cybercrime target.

4. Manage your social media settings
Keep your personal and private information locked down. Social engineering cybercriminals can often get your personal information with just a few data points, so the less you share publicly, the better. For instance, if you post your pet’s name or reveal your mother’s maiden name, you might expose the answers to two common security questions. The more personal information in your social media the higher the security risk.

5. Strengthen your home network
It’s a good idea to start with a strong encryption password as well as a virtual private network. A VPN will encrypt all traffic leaving your devices until it arrives at its destination. If cybercriminals do manage to hack your communication line, they will not intercept anything but encrypted data. It is a highly recommended to use a VPN whenever you use a public Wi-Fi network, whether it is in a library, café, hotel, or airport.

6. Talk to your children about the internet
You can teach your children about acceptable use of the internet without shutting down communication channels. Make sure that they know that they can come to you if they are experiencing any kind of online harassment, stalking, or bullying.

7. Keep up to date on major security breaches
If you do business with a merchant or have an account on a website that has been impacted by a security breach, find out what information the hackers accessed and change your password immediately.

8. Take measures to help protect yourself against identity theft
Identity theft occurs when someone wrongfully obtains your personal data in a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. How? You might be tricked into giving personal information over the internet, for instance, or a thief might steal your mail to access account information.

9. Know that identity theft can happen anywhere
It’s smart to know how to protect your identity even when traveling. There are a lot of things you can do to help keep criminals from getting your private information on the road. These include keeping your travel plans off social media and using a VPN when accessing the internet over your hotel’s Wi-Fi network.

10. Keep an eye on the children
Just like you want to talk to your children about the internet, you also want to help protect them against identity theft.  You can help guard against identity theft by being careful when sharing your child’s personal information. It is also smart to know what to look for that might suggest your child’s identity has been compromised.

11. Know what to do if you become a victim
If you believe that you have become a victim of a cybercrime, you must take it seriously and you need to alert the local police and, in some cases, the their Cybercrime Unit. Depending on the cybercrime, you will be guided how to proceed to minimise the damage and in some case to recuperate any losses of damage done. 

A resource to help you report and recover from identity theft can be found at the Police Force’s Cyber Crime Unit at 2294 2231 or computer.crime@gov.mt.​

Prevention is better than cure, and this must not be under-estimated. Additionally, various initiatives are carried out by various organisations in Malta, including eSkills Malta Foundation, Cybersecurity Malta, ISACA, MCA and it is advisable to keep yourself informed.  There is something for everyone, be it citizen, organisations or IT Professionals.

This article was prepared by researching various publicly available content online.