Social media makes you vulnerable to cybercrime

cybercrimeAccording to statistics from antivirus software provider McAfee’s Global Cost of Cybercrime report, cybercrime costs the South African economy about R5.8 billion a year. In light of Safer Internet Day celebrated on 9 February 2016, Candice Sutherland, Cyber Liability Specialist at Stalker Hutchison Admiral (SHA), provides the following tips to safeguard yourself against any criminal activity.

Keep your personal life personal

Many people share a lot of their personal lives online, but you need to think carefully about what you put on social media sites. You can expose yourself to cyber stalking and identity theft, as criminals are able to follow your every move by tracking your social media activity.

By activating geo-tagging features or “check-in” functions on devices, you not only provide stalkers with your exact location, but also provide information pertaining to your friends and family. It is recommended that you avoid location-based features and applications.

Upload photos with caution

Photos shared on social media can be used by cyber criminals to obtain personal information such as your home address, licence plate number, passport and ID number. You should always try to crop out or blur areas of photos that contain personal information before you share the image on social media.

Review bank and credit card statements regularly

The damage caused by identity theft and cybercrime can be greatly reduced if you catch the criminal shortly after the data is stolen or after the data is used for fraudulent activity the first time. So be sure to review your monthly bank statements for anything out of the ordinary and alert the bank’s fraud department immediately if something is not right.

Be careful when using free Wi-Fi hotspot

Be very careful about accessing your personal accounts while using a free Wi-Fi hotspot, as this can make you extremely vulnerable to hackers waiting for unsuspecting victims to reveal their personal information.

Install anti-virus software on all devices

As a first line of defence against cybercrime, it is vital to install a high-quality anti-virus program and firewall on all devices that access the internet. This includes computers, smartphones and tablets. Anti-virus software protects the device by detecting viruses, spyware and worms. You should update this software regularly to ensure maximum protection against threats.

Always be vigilant of phishing

Research by Symantec (a leading cyber security firm) found that one in every 214 emails sent in South Africa during 2014 was a phishing attack. Phishing is a technique which involves the cybercriminal sending official-looking emails in an attempt to get you to reveal sensitive information such as your bank details, passwords as well as ID number. You should never respond to an email from a strange source with an odd email address requesting personal information.

If the email looks like it is from a legitimate source such as a bank, but seems suspicious, rather contact the company that the email appears to be from to ascertain whether the email is fake. Fraudulent emails can usually be easily spotted as they usually use a generic salutation, such as “Dear Customer” rather than using a specific name, and they are often riddled with a combination of poor grammar, misspellings and odd phrasings.

Be careful with passwords

Using the same password across various platforms, such as social media or online banking, certainly makes it easier for you to manage all your accounts, but doing this is not advised as it simultaneously makes multiple accounts vulnerable for cyber threats. For example, if cyber criminals manage to get access to your gmail account, they may then also be able to log in to your online banking portal.

For added security, use strong passwords of eight characters or more, comprising of a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. It’s also a good idea to change your passwords on a regular basis as a means of limiting the damage when a hacker may have gained access to your account in the past.

Related: Five safety tips for shopping online

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