That Information and Communications Technology is revamping everyday life is by now a well-used line, and for good reasons. We live in an age where almost every young child seems to be born with a curious knowledge of how to use technology.
Whether by choice or force, we are connected through our waking hours, and for younger people it is all they know. As someone who has observed major changes in the ICT landscape over the past 20 years, I can say that the Internet has become entwined in the fabric of our work and social lives.
When it comes to technology, there are good, bad, and ugly parts to waddle through. As much as digital technology has brought unprecedented benefits to humanity, we are constantly trying to snuff out its ugly facets while retaining the useful parts. To be sure, one of the biggest drawbacks of the ICT is the proliferation of cyber attacks.
It simply does not matter if you are a business owner, civil/public servant, student, or a stay-at-home parent; as long as you access the Internet, you can become a victim. From malware that infects, explores, steals, or conducts any behavior an attacker so desires, cybercrime encompasses a wide range of criminal activities that are designed to devastate unsuspecting victims. I once met a young man who had been a victim of cybercrime. Right in my presence, his phone kept beeping. Every beep signalled that his bank account had been debited for a purchase he didn’t make. I could not help but feel pity for the young man who looked undeniably traumatised.
Perhaps, due to their having less experience with modern technology, elderly individuals are usually thought to be the ones more vulnerable to cybercrime. Surprisingly, new data based on a cybersecurity survey suggests that this is not the case.
According to the data, Gen Z and Millennials are also most likely to become victims of one, resulting in money or data loss. Even worse, they are the least likely to report a cybercrime unlike members of the older generations. Knowing the potential hazards lying in wait to ambush Internet users irrespective of their age, should we treat the online environment just like any other public space where we may access new information, take part in commercial activity or socially interact with others? I think not!
Since cybercrime is a problem created by unscrupulous people using technology, it is not out of place to deploy similar strategies in order to tackle the issue. Cybercrime investigations are only a part of the puzzle, more resources are needed to protect individuals and businesses as well as equip them to become resilient to cyber-attacks. While law enforcement agents might not be able to apprehend all cybercriminals considering the scope of their activities, techniques, and geography, we need to go on the offensive, striking at the economic business model of cybercriminals. Technology can supply these tools. A comparison of the overall number of mass cyber attacks in 2021 reveals a 7.5 per cent decrease in Nigeria, a 12 per cent decrease in South Africa, and an unprecedented 28.6 per cent decrease in Kenya.
Although we’ve come so far in tackling cybercrimes, now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back and go back to sleep. Cyber experts have warned of the need to double down in the fight against cybercrimes. In its latest report on Cyber threats to Financial Organisations, Kaspersky, a renowned cyber security company predicted that come 2022, there will be a sharp increase in mobile banking Trojans for the Android platform, particularly remote access Trojan (RAT), which can circumvent security measures by banks such as OTP and multi-factor authentication.
The report also warned that growth in attacks against payment systems and more advanced mobile threats are expected in the coming year; hence the need to be on guard.
We cannot deny that 2021 has proven to be a year filled with challenges and novelty, requiring no small amount of adaptation. Like a cat that always finds its feet no matter where it lands, cybercriminals deviously adapt and manipulate change to their advantage very quickly.
You do not have to study criminal psychology to understand that the end goal of most cybercrimes linked to hacking, malware, ransomware, phishing, online financial crimes, online fraud, password cracking, and sextortion is primarily financial gain. Although for some cybercriminals, motivation can be due to cyber theft, ego trip, espionage, or pranks.
Experts and specialists in the field of cyber security play an important key role in monitoring, detecting, investigating, analysing, and responding to security issues, ensuring maximum security of information systems. Likewise, individuals can do so much to protect themselves from cyber security risks, threats, and vulnerabilities. Consider a few suggestions on how to up your security when online.
One of the first things you can do is to keep your security software (anti-malware, and antivirus software) operating system, and web browser up to date. Always remember to back up your data regularly. If you run or manage a business, ensure that you stay up to date with the operating system and firmware updates on endpoints.
In many cases, individuals inadvertently leave themselves open to cyber attacks. How so? For one, they have insecure password practices which include password sharing with colleagues, family members and friends. Users have also been known to jot down passwords on sticky notes, papers, planners, changing passwords only when prompted; or using the same passwords for multiple accounts and sites.
A global research platform, GoodFirms, recently launched its latest survey report. It found that 30 per cent of security breaches that occurred in 2021 were caused by weak passwords. As such, the firm advises users to take responsibility and protect their passwords from cyber attackers now that password authentication technology is getting stronger and more foolproof.
That being said, you can use secure VPNs, two-factor authentication, and avoid dictionary terms in passwords. Memorising scores of passwords made up of random letters, numbers and symbols can be demanding if not tricky as you may forget some. To avoid this, use password management software, such as Lastpass, and be confident enough to create unique passwords that are difficult to guess.
In your organisation, ensure two-factor authentication is enabled everywhere it can be. Also, make it a habit to do penetration testing as that can help identify vulnerabilities and loopholes in your systems. Keep staff trained and updated on how to detect and deal with attempted social engineering attacks.
Follow the rule of “when in doubt, throw it out.” Resist the urge to click on any links or open attachments unless you trust where the information is coming from.
In less than a decade, cybersecurity has become one of the most important systemic problems for the global economy. Even worse, unscrupulous individuals are becoming sophisticated, creating billions of dollars worth of problems for the entire world. No mark is too small for these criminals as they plot scams, fraud, and cyber attacks against individuals, businesses, organisations, and countries alike. Thus, it is in everyone’s best interest to fight against all forms of cybercrime.