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May 31, 2013

Tips to Minimize Your Risks From Cybercrime

by Mil Arcega

Cybercrime strikes an estimated 1.5 million people every day. That’s about 18 victims every second, 556 million people around the world, every year. While experts say the people who commit these crimes are becoming more sophisticated, you don’t have to be another statistic. There are effective ways businesses and individuals can minimize their risks.

Protecting organizations and individuals from data thieves is a multibillion-dollar industry. There's a good reason. Alan Edwards, the president of WhiteHorse Technology Solutions says anyone with access to the Internet should be worried - because cybercrime is no longer limited to your home, your office or your bank.

“You have your iPad you’re carrying around, you have iPhones, your android tablets, your laptops. So much information walks out the door of the office,” says Edwards.

For hackers - all that mobile data spells opportunity. Criminology professor David Maimon says one way to reduce your risks is to be very careful about what you post on social networking sites.

“I think the fact that you report to everyone about your actions 24/7 is problematic because if someone wants to victimize you, all they have to do is look at your Facebook account," said Maimon.  

A little common sense can pay dividends:

* Don’t tweet when you’re going on vacation if you don’t want your home burglarized.

* If you bank by phone, don’t store account numbers and passwords on your phone.

* Don’t open emails or attachments from people you don’t know.

And if someone wants to give you something for free, Alan Edwards of Whitehorse Technology Solutions says to be wary. "The first thing to think about is basic economics. If I’m being given something for free… why?"

But common sense is a poor substitute for good security:

*Activate your computer’s firewall.

*Install reputable anti-virus and anti-malware software.

*Use strong passwords, which means avoid using your name, your birthday or personal information.

Whitehorse Technology recommends starting with a phrase you’re familiar with - then use the first letters of each word in the phrase to create your password.  

*In this case AFaHMaSP. To make it stronger - add a special character, numbers or both.

Even then, good security measures can only do so much, said criminology student Ted Wilson.

“Anything can be exploited, it’s just a question of whether or not a hacker actually wants to take the time to overcome whatever type of security measures you have,” said Wilson.

Consider a recent example involving the secretive government of Iran. Security expert Edwards said hackers managed to infiltrate the country’s top secret nuclear program using the old USB flash drive trick.  

"It’s very, very simple. If I drop a flash drive in a car park [parking lot], the odds are somebody’s going to pick it up, and what they do first is look and see what’s on it. So they take it into their business and they plug it in their computer. You’ve just bypassed all the external firewalls," he said.

Hackers have many more tricks to steal your information. But unless you’re a high value target - such as a bank, government agency or business - every security precaution you take adds a new layer of protection.  Experts say that additional barrier may be all it takes for a cyberthief to move on to the next target.