We live in a digital age and rely upon our phones, laptops and computers to carry out many everyday tasks. These devices simplify our lives, allowing us to work, shop and socialise via the one screen and ultimately bring the world a little closer together.
Unfortunately, the type of information that we share on the internet makes our personal tech gadgets and online accounts prime targets for cybercriminals. These crooks spend their time looking for opportunities to steal not only money, but also your identity. The effects of this can be devastating, with victims left feeling helpless and vulnerable to future attacks.
There are many internet security tools that you can employ to help protect yourself against this type of behaviour. One of the most powerful weapons you have at your disposal is knowledge. Staying up to date with the latest strategies and methods of operation used by cybercriminals means that you will be able to easily spot warning signs and prevent your personal information from ending up in the wrong hands.
Norton Lifelock, a global leader in Cyber Safety, is here to help with the recent release of their sponsored podcast — Criminal Domain. Hosted by respected journalist Claire Aird and leading futurist Mark Pesce, Criminal Domain shares the ways in which you may be leaving yourself open to destructive cyber attacks and what you should be doing to help protect yourself online.
Listen to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or via the Criminal Domain website and continue reading to discover some of the top threats to your online safety.
Phishing is a type of cybercrime through which scammers impersonate trusted organisations (for example, your bank), in an attempt to trick you into sharing personal information. This could be the login credentials to your online accounts, credit card details or personally identifiable information including your full name, address and date of birth.
Phishing is a relatively common type of online scam. Scamwatch and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission reported over 44,000 phishing attempts in 2020, with $2 million stolen from innocent victims.
One of these victims was acclaimed AFL journalist, Mike Sheehan. Speaking with Criminal Domain, Sheehan shares how he lost $147,000 through a phishing scam, the convoluted international criminal network that police believe were responsible for the loss, and the warning signs he should have spotted and acted upon to prevent the attack from occurring.
With the amount of information that is contained on our smartphones, it is little wonder that these devices are prime targets for cyber hackers. These criminals understand that many people are glued to their phones around the clock and that this attachment provides ample opportunity to swoop in when we are least protected.
Australian influencer Tayla Damir understands this all too well. A victim of not only one, but two separate hacking attacks, Tayla found herself stranded in Lebanon with no money or access to her online accounts, thanks to the work of opportunistic hackers.
As told to Criminal Domain, Tayla believes that sharing her location with hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers, coupled with the unsecured airport Wi-Fi that she used to make banking transactions, led to the hackers targeting her. The use of a VPN, secure passwords and 2-factor authentication on all her accounts may have prevented criminals from infiltrating her digital world.
Our devices contain a great deal of personal information including documents, emails and precious photos of loved ones. Whilst we might think that these files are safe — after all, a digital photo cannot be damaged in the same way that a physical one can — it turns out that there are many methods through which cyber criminals may attempt to access and manipulate our data.
One of these is ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that, after being downloaded to a computer, will encrypt all files so that they are no longer readable. The hacker will then contact their victim and demand a ransom in exchange for an encryption key to restore the device.
Ransomware can be particularly devastating, as New Zealand radio host Glenn found out. Sharing his story with Criminal Domain, Glenn relates the lengths he had to go to in order to regain access to years worth of encrypted family photos — including tense negotiations with the data kidnappers and the settlement of a ransom that he hoped would ultimately pay off.
Identity theft is a complex and growing online threat that affects millions of people around the world. It is a devastating type of attack as there is very little that can be done to recover stolen information, particularly if it ends up on the dark web.
The dark web contains many forums and websites on which hackers sell personal information obtained through data breaches. This can include credit card details, social media login credentials and personally identifiable information (full name, date of birth, passport number and driver's license) which can then be used to open new banking accounts without the victim’s knowledge.
Catherine is just one of the approximately 6.25 million Australians affected by identity theft — the Australian Institute of Criminology estimates that 1 in 4 Australians will be a victim of identity crime at some point in their lives. Speaking with Criminal Domain, Catherine explained that she started to receive banking cards in the mail — in her name — for accounts that she had not opened. Connecting the dots between a physical break-in at her house in 2007, and the hacking of her email account in 2015, Catherine realised that her personal information had been stolen and was being passed between cybercriminals for their own benefit.
A chance robbery of her personal device, combined with the use of an employee spyware program, allowed a member of the Victorian eCrimes squad to hone in on the sophisticated network of identity thieves that possessed some of Catherine’s private documents and providing unparalleled insight into the thoughts and tactics of these hackers.
Many apps and websites require certain information in order to function correctly. For example, a maps application will need your GPS location to track your route. But what happens when this kind of information falls into the wrong hands, or is misused by big data companies?
This was the situation faced by Jenny, whose story was explored by Claire and Mark on Criminal Domain. Jenny was a victim of cyberstalking. Her perpetrator, an ex-partner, illegally manipulated technology in order to track her every move. She is not alone, with many Australians being subjected to abusive messages, hacking and online monitoring — the consequences of which can be life-threatening.
This type of illegal behaviour is further facilitated through our digitally-centred lives. It is vital that we remain aware of the connected nature of our devices and the capabilities that online gadgets have to monitor, track and share our behaviour.
Help to protect yourself online
Armed with your new-found knowledge, you are well on the way to living a safe digital life. But don’t stop there — your next step should be investing in trustworthy internet security software to help protect all of your online activities.
Norton 360 includes a range of features that are designed to provide well-rounded protection from online threats. This includes antivirus and malware protection, PC Cloud Backup, Smart Firewall for PC, Password Manager, Secure VPN, PC SafeCam, Parental Control and Dark Web Monitoring. All-in-one protection for PC, Mac, smartphone and tablet devices will grant you peace of mind that you and your family are protected against the damaging actions of online criminals.
Consider too, sharing the Criminal Domain podcast with your friends and family so that they can learn to spot the warning signs of online criminal behaviour. After all, the last thing you want is someone close to you falling victim to a cyberattack.