As technology evolves, so do the opportunities and the means used by the ‘bad people’ to target and ensnare gullible victims into parting with their credentials and their money.
The widespread availability of smart phones, tablets and always-on internet connectivity for home computers has meant dramatic transformation in the way we interact and transact – especially with online shopping malls and service providers, including banks. However, differences in attitudes, awareness and education levels of users when performing online financial & banking transactions occupy the whole spectrum – from the tremendously low to the exceedingly high.
As technology evolves, so do the opportunities and the means used by the ‘bad people’ to target and ensnare gullible victims into parting with their credentials and their money. Let’s look at how we can minimize our chances of becoming a victim.
First things first. Your security in the cyberworld begins with you. It may sound naïve, but most victims get conned because of the sheer carelessness about securing their devices. Unfounded trust in other individuals or communication, ostensibly from their bank, is also a major undoing. The third factor is the tendency to get scared and therefore act irrationally when faced with a suspicious incident. And finally, amongst the worst traits responsible for a person’s undoing is their greed. These are the precise factors that fraudsters are aiming at to make their victims part with their monies.
To get the basics right, please, please use legitimate operating systems for your devices and keep them updated. We all hate the small inconvenience when the OS is patching up and updating itself once every few days, but it’s a small hassle worth putting up with. The same goes for your browsers. Keep them current. Also have a good anti-virus and anti-malware protection on your devices that you use for your banking transactions. When travelling and while using free or public wi-fi networks, notch up your defences a bit by turning on a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This helps you connect securely and shields your browsing activity from prying eyes.
A few other things to keep in mind are not to download, use or open any file from an unknown or a dubious source or even from a trusted & known source when you know it is not legit (I mean those lovely “free” MP3 music files, pirated videos and games/cracked software, e-books shared by people you know – friends and family etc.). Do not click on any unknown web links or hyperlinks. There is no free lunch, excuse me for repeating this for the umpteenth time! Please only use the “official” apps. Do not “jailbreak” or otherwise compromise your devices. Carefully grant permissions to different apps, especially on the Android Platform, and watch for any abnormal data traffic happening in the background or unusual behaviour of your device.
Opinions differ, but iPhones and the Apple App Store are considered a much safer ecosystem compared to the others in the market. Getting tempted with the promise of a big corporation handing away the latest phones to “a select few lucky winners – you among them”, or getting scared with a stern warning either through email, a computer pop-up or through a voice call/ SMS that effectively say that the authorities know that you have been a naughty person or a tax evader and therefore face prosecution – is a risk in itself. This can make you part with sensitive private and personal banking or payment card related information for “remediation or closure of the case”.
Another scare tactic is for you to be told that your bank account or card has been compromised and you must immediately “verify” some details to restore the security of the same. In such situations, respond sensibly. This means promptly calling a published number of the contact centre of your bank and checking with them. In no case must you part with any information about your account unless you initiated the call and are sure of who you are interacting with.
Also having a complex & a different password for each of the services that you use is very helpful. Remember passwords, do not write them down, unless you are devising a cipher that only you can understand. And be sure to lock your devices when unattended.
All these tips should protect you well in the cool, cold cyberworld.
(By Niranjan Upadhye, Head, Fraud Risk Management Function at Worldline India)