In perhaps the most dubious form of computer hacking, modern tech criminals are gaining the upper hand over small businesses and individuals with the concept of ‘Social Engineering’.
Thieving, intelligent and cunning Social Engineers are well-trained in the art of deception and manipulation. They have one enterprising goal, to prey on passwords, bank accounts and personal records.
In a new-age technological society, the world of online business can offer exceptional return to small businesses. However, risk management and a comprehensive understanding of the various threats are essential. Social engineering comes in many forms, but common attacks can include the following:
1. Emails containing downloads and links: Criminal hackers, after gaining access to a friend’s email account, can send you a message containing a link to a ‘movie’ or ‘song’ which is in fact malware. They effectively use your trust and curiosity to gain access to your system.
2. Unsolicited bank calls: Whilst posing as a staff member from your personal bank, these modern-day thieves will either request your password or inform you of the need to change your current password and will offer to do this for you before draining your bank accounts.
3. Social media fundraising campaigns: Correspondence whether by social media forums such as Facebook and twitter, or by email requesting donations for foreign aid, is most likely a scam. Charities do not seek donations by email and will never ask you to give up your bank account details without previous contact. Should you wish to donate to a charity, contact the charity directly.
How To Stay Safe
1. SLOW DOWN: Hackers and scammers will impose a sense of urgency in an attempt to force an irrational decision. Try to spot these urgency created by spammers and think before you click.
2. DELETE: Any request for financial information or passwords should be treated suspiciously. If you get asked to respond to a message with personal information, delete the message.
3. REFRAIN FROM CURIOUS CLICKING: Clicking suspicious links and downloads is a poor choice as these will most likely enable the installation of malware to your business computer.
4. BE SKEPTICAL: Hackers and social engineers who illegally take control of people’s email accounts will prey on the trust of the person’s contacts. Even when the sender of the email seems to be a friend, contact them before opening links or downloading.
5. SECURE YOUR COMPUTER: By installing anti-virus software, firewalls and email filters, your computer will be an extremely difficult target for the Social Engineer.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in the 2011-2012 financial year alone, Australian businesses had an online income of $246 billion. However, online security company Norton Security, found that a total of $388 billion had been lost in the following year. The proof is mathematically concerning.
It is evident that along with the reward of online business ventures, comes ample risk. Control the risk; reap the reward and stay cyber safe!