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The convenience of technology at our fingertips has transformed business. It has been instrumental in connecting billions across the world, through a host of computing devices, wireless networks and other infrastructure. Technology has proven to be advantageous for those who tap into the collective human knowledge accumulated by these networks.
But a disruptive innovation can also turn out be a double-edged sword. Technology is entrenched into our lives so deeply, enabling conversations as well as transactions in a faster and transparent manner. On the flip-side, it has also exposed users to many fraud-related risks that they may be unaware of. Having said that, this should not come as a surprise, considering the internet was conceived to foster connectivity and not security.
With ever-higher number of internet users, the potential risk in transferring private and sensitive data through the web is also augmented. With time, it has been seen that websites (e-commerce, social networks, etc.) are beefing up their security mechanisms through improved technologies. But all the same, fraudsters are also finding new techniques to break into these security systems. After all, the internet does provide them with adequate anonymity to ambush unsuspecting victims into revealing sensitive information. While there can be multiple combinations of cyber-attacks that can occur, phishing and open wi-fi networks are two of the most devious techniques which can lead to identity theft.
Phishing has emerged to be one of the most extensively used means by cybercriminals to deceive online users. In fact, most individuals who have an email account would have come across a phishing e-mail; some even falling into this cyber trap.
Phishing means clicking on a link that you receive from a seemingly legitimate e-mail, text message or even attachment. This link directs you to a website, which appears genuine, but is actually a clone. It asks for registration details in the form of data such as bank username and password, post which the website crashes. This is when the malicious code enters the web browser, notes the logins and passwords, and passes on the strokes to the fraudsters. With this personal information, cybercriminals can gain access to most of your accounts as many individuals tend to have the same password across. To reduce the chances of being thus victimised, online users should:
type out the link in the address bar of their web-browser instead of clicking,
avoid opening links or attachments sent from unidentified sources,
look for a “lock” icon in the web browser’s status bar or make sure that the URL starts with “https” instead of just “http”,
install and regularly update the anti-virus and anti-malware software,
avoid discarding bank statements; instead read carefully to check for unauthorised transactions,
avoid sending financial or personal information over e-mails,
not click links or enter personal information on pop-up screens, and
upon receipt of any e-mail stating that your account will be suspended or rendered inactive, if you do not update the required information, consider calling or writing to customer-care instead of responding to the e-mail.
The effectiveness of phishing has led to a steady rise in the number of such frauds. There have been instances where cybercriminals have combined phishing with a malware in the form of a blended attack model to increase the success rate of the attack. According to the Union home ministry, 2015 witnessed about 11,592 cases of cybercrime being reported across the country, which is a rise of almost 20% over the year before.
Open public wi-fi networks can be convenient when travelling, but need to be treated with caution. Various hacking techniques can easily read the information exchanged through these open networks. One of the ways to do that is to create a rogue wi-fi hot spot. Once connected, the hacker can easily access and collect any data sent and received through this network. The cybercriminal can then steal the user’s identity, clean out bank accounts, use credit cards and siphon off any or every finances of the user accessible through the online route.
Public networks secured with a password do not necessarily make the network more secure, but may only be a way to keep a tab of users and charge them a nominal amount, if necessary. Every wireless network is a potential entry point for determined hackers. Most commonly, they use packet sniffers, which intercept and log all unencrypted information passing through the network. As packet sniffers are very difficult to detect, the adverse impact can be significant.
Even with these challenges, individuals can take several steps to mitigate hacking via public networks. It is safer to use mobile data and tether your phone. Users could do the following:
Use a virtual private connection (VPN) to encrypt web-browsing and other online activity. This makes it harder for hackers to decode data being exchanged through the network;
While using public Wi-Fi, avoid sharing any sensitive data such as credit card details, bank logins and passwords, etc
Double check with the cafe, airport, mall, etc, that you are selecting the right network and not a parallel network created by the hacker, especially if you see two networks with similar names;
Turn off automatic Wi-Fi connections on your computing devices and mobile phone
While the government is taking steps in the right direction to tackle cybercrime, cybercriminals getting caught continues to be post a low figure. This is despite cases of cybercrime having doubled in the last two years. It is, thus, better to be safe than sorry; be vigilant and cautious than have any personal data compromised. To quote Bismarck, “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
SOURCE: Financial Express
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