October is cyber security awareness month and WonderNet has partnered with Rianette Leibowitz to raise awareness about internet security. The internet is a public space and so much of our lives now happens online. The vast majority of cyberspace attacks happen because of human error. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the risks and know how to protect yourself in the digital world.
“Cyber safety and wellness is important for EVERYONE – no matter how young or old you are!” – Rianette Leibowitz.
Rianette is a cyber wellness and cyber safety change agent. Her goals are to promote cybersecurity and help people develop healthy digital habits. WonderNet has partnered with her to create awareness around responsible online engagement. As a leading fibre internet provider to homes and small businesses across South Africa, WonderNet understands how essential it is for internet users to keep themselves safe while working, studying, playing or socializing online.
Now in its 18th year, cyber security awareness month aims to ensure that South African citizens have the resources, knowledge and skills they need to be safe and secure online. We can all play our part in promoting digital safety and safeguarding ourselves against threats. Let’s look at the main cyber security issues and what we can do to protect ourselves.
Protect yourself from scammers
Learning about scammers and the most common types of threats will go a long way in helping you protect yourself in cyberspace. There are three main types of internet scams: email scams, imposter scams and payment scams. There is some overlap with these different types of scams, but each has its own particular qualities that are worth noting.
Email scams are very common. Emails with malicious attachments trick people into giving out personal information or sending money. Fraudulent Covid-19 related emails are on the rise and often implore the recipient to give a donation to a charity or to support a cause.
Imposter scams are the result of data breaches, where your personal information has been stolen by hackers. You might receive an email or call from someone claiming to be a family member, friend or government official.
The imposter has probably stolen information about you, for example, details about your family, finances or recent purchases you’ve made. Fraudsters build up an identity of you based on this information and use it against you. They might ask you to make a payment or share details of your sensitive financial information.
Payment scams are a type of criminal fraud where the scammer asks you to make a payment, often by saying that payment is owing to you from a supposedly trusted source. With this type of scam, the fraudster says that they can only release payment once you have paid a deposit and covered the administrative costs. If you make this payment, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to contact the scammer again as they run off into the sunset with your hard-earned cash.
Protect yourself from viruses and malware
Phishing and spoofing attacks are extremely common methods for viruses and malware to infect your devices. Having viruses and malware on your phone, laptop or tablet can have very serious consequences. These malicious apps or programs can steal your personal information, track what you do and slow down your internet connection speed to a snail’s pace.
What exactly are phishing and spoofing attacks, and what’s the difference between them? Phishing attacks happen on emails or websites that appear to come from a real person, financial institution, government agency, or any business or individual.
These emails or websites contain links or attachments that when clicked on download malware or viruses onto your device, often without your knowledge. If you do click on a hyperlink, make sure the URL begins with “https” as the “s” indicates that the website is encrypted to protect the users’ information.
Spoofing attacks happen when emails or websites lead victims to believe they are interacting with a familiar company, institution, or agency. They are often disgusted as a trusted source that you interact with on a regular basis. As with phishing attacks, spoofing attacks can lead you to download malware, but they might also steer you into sending money or providing sensitive personal or financial information. Emails contain phrases such as:
“There has been an unauthorized transaction on your account. Please click on the link to confirm your identity and ensure your account has not been compromised.”
“We could not verify your information. Please click here to update and verify your account details.”
Before responding to these types of requests, take some time to reflect. Be careful of communication that has a sense of urgency. This is done to create fear and encourage victims to take swift action to protect themselves.
If you get a suspicious email from someone that claims to know you, reach out to that person using a different method of communication on a secure platform. Contact customer services to verify “phishy” emails from institutions or companies.
Protect your online accounts
You are personally accountable for the different accounts you set up online. You can take action to reduce cybersecurity risks. One of the most important ways is to use strong passwords and, where possible, login protection with multi-factor authentication.
Multi-factor authentication is when you use more than one method to confirm your login. For example, you enter your password on your laptop and then you confirm login on an app on your phone. Other types of multi-factor authentication include one-time pins (OTPs), fingerprints and facial or voice recognition. Where possible, set up multi-factor authentication for your online banking, social media and email accounts.
Having a strong password can go a long way in protecting you against hackers. Here are some tips to help you set a strong password:
- Make sure passwords are not easy to guess. Don’t include any personal information or information related to your family members or pets, as this can be accessed on your social media.
- Never reveal your password to anyone.
- Use different passwords for each of your accounts.
- Substitute letters with punctuation marks, symbols or numbers. For example the letter “I” can be a 1 or an exclamation mark (!), an “A” can be @, and “B” can be 3. Get creative with how you spell your P@s5wordS.
- Use long passphrases, for example the name of a book, celebrity or an affirmation. Use punctuation and a mix of upper and lower case, such as H@rrYP0tt3r!
Be proactive when it comes to cyber security
Being aware of the risks and how to protect yourself can go a long way when it comes to cyber security. Report suspicious activity or harassment on social media platforms. Speak to local or national authorities if you have fallen victim to a serious cyber crime.
“Together we can create a more positive impact and encourage people to become responsible digital citizens.” – Rianette Leibowitz.
Take a look at our new Cyber Wellness page for the latest information and tips on cyber security and online protection. We share insights from Rianette and break down some of her ideas to ensure that our customers use the internet responsibly. For a fibre internet upgrade to your home or office, please contact us today or check if we’re connected to your address.