Last night I was watching a late night movie about these teenagers trying to hack into the computer school system to steal SAT answers. Of course, the movie ends with them getting caught and innocently admitting to their crime with a slap to the hand. Coincidentally, the next day I picked up the morning newspaper and read an article about cybercrimes becoming a rapidly growing underground business built by savvy criminals who buy and sell valuable stolen financial information on an online black market.
That’s when I thought to myself, cyber criminals are no longer computer geeks trying to crash computers from their mothers’ basements but identity thieves making a killing off of stolen identities. Cyber attacks come from malware or malicious software that can collect your personal information, account numbers, and usernames/passwords, then sends it over to the bad guys without you even knowing it. The most common forms of malware include keystroke logging, spyware, viruses, worms and Trojan horses.
Once your information has been collected to be used for financial gain, cybercriminals go onto an invitation-only Internet chat group to do commerce with other online criminals. Cybercriminals will often set up a hacker channel for a matter of days, do business, and then take it down to avoid detection. According to The Internet Crime Complaint Center, the total dollar loss linked to cyber crimes was $265 million in 2008 alone.
Below are cyber safety tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of cyber-criminals:
1. Run a Clean Machine– Having the latest updated anti-virus, anti-malware installed on your PC should be a priority.
2. If In Doubt, Delete! – When opening email, be smart. Most people can recognize spam mail or email that doesn’t belong in their inbox. When in doubt, delete an email.
3. Look For Security Signs – When on a company’s Internet site, check for the following security signals to ensure you’re where you’re supposed to be. Note if the web address begins with “https”, this means you’re on a secure server using SSL encryption.
Also look for a padlock icon at the bottom of the browser page. Click on it and you’ll see the site address. The address will match the web site address at the top of the page. If they don’t match, get off the site immediately.