How to keep you and your business safe online

| Technology

How to keep you and your business safe online

So how secure are you? Sadly, our experience from dealing with an increasing number of clients that have fallen foul to one form of internet security issue or another is frightening.

A recent Government cross party committee report confirmed that e-crime can take various forms, that it doesn’t recognise national borders and can be committed at any time and in any place… A scary thought. The report was critical of the Government, in particular the UKs current anti e-crime strategy, given that 800, almost a quarter of the UKs specialist internet crime officers are under threat from cost saving measures.

The committee recommends a specific cyber-espionage team be assembled that can quickly respond to cyber and internet fraud attacks. Evidence from the UK’s eavesdropping centre GCHQ suggests that that 80% of cyber-attacks could be prevented if only information was more secure and better managed.

It is believed, rather frighteningly, that foreign governments are behind many gangs responsible for these attacks due to their sophisticated nature. Keith Vaz, the Labour MP who chairs the committee said the gangs committing these attacks were "predominantly" from Eastern Europe, including European Union countries such as Romania. Gangs in Russia are also a known to be involved in this type of crime.  

The crimes resulting from attacks cover a broad spectrum, from attacks on large computer systems to the use of viruses and Trojans with a view to stealing personal data for identity theft and forgery. Further evidence was shown that of the estimated 1300 criminal gangs engaged in cyber-crime around 25% are located in Eastern Europe and Russia. The report concluded that ‘At a time when fraud and e-crime is going up, the capability of the country to address it is going down’.     

Perhaps the number one cause of crime against individuals and businesses, certainly amongst our estate agent clients is malware or virus. In our highly social electronic culture where sharing information is second nature, it is easy to become seduced into opening every email attachment and clicking every link, many of which can appear to be from friends, your bank, pay pal, credit card companies etc, etc… This is the most common ploy of the cyber-criminal, and without question is the one for us all to take the most care over and be vigilant of.  

So how safe are you? The truth for many is that they don’t really know until it’s too late, when they find that they have been targeted. What’s at risk and what precautions can you take -  

What’s at risk?

  • Your office network
  • Your online bank accounts
  • Online credit card accounts
  • Cloud based Estate agency software system
  • Your Website
  • Social media sites

How to protect yourself from cyber-crime -

1). Always use reputable anti-virus software

This is so critical, many of our clients do not have a unified anti-virus policy - All computers including lap tops and home pcs that can connect to the office network must have anti-virus installed, it must be the very latest version and a daily virus sweep should be performed without fail. This is the number one cause of cyber-crime with our clients.  

2). Passwords

Most people’s idea of a password is something they can easily remember, and if it’d easy for you to remember it’s probably easy for someone to guess. Passwords should be 8-10 characters, include letters, numbers and symbols; don’t make it easy for cyber criminals.

Do not use the same password on different websites, always use a different password every time.

3). Email attachments

Perhaps the most common route for cyber criminals to you is via malicious emails, never click a link or open an attachment, however tempting, from some you don’t know, and even if you do be careful because these criminals are clever and often impersonate your friends.  

4). Use different email accounts

Have separate email accounts for signing up to social sites and requests for information to the email account used for business and secure transactions.

If a cyber-criminal has cracked your main email account it’s a simple step to check you emails, look at your financial information and reset the passwords giving them access to all your money…

5). Block unknown connection requests

Guard against clicking links on spurious emails - Cyber criminals are smart, they use every trick to dupe you into revealing personal information. From pretending to be you bank, credit card, HMRC, Facebook, etc, you name it they’ve tried it. The golden rule is, if in doubt do NOT click.

6). PC vs Mac

With the increasingly popular Apple brand many are fooled into believing they are somehow protected if they have a Mac over a PC… don’t believe it, you are as vulnerable with a Mac and you are a PC. One simple message, get protection!

7). Website - Pop ups

These are the little windows that appear when you’re accessing certain websites, pop ups can contain malicious software which is downloaded if clicked, this is more commonly known as malware and will collect information held on your commuter be made available to criminals. These pop ups can seem tempting, offering free stuff or surveys, unless you are 100% certain of a pop ups credibility never click.

8). Facebook security settings

With so much personal interest information available on social sites like Facebook, it is easy to see how cyber criminals can temp you to click links or open attachments with embedded malware waiting to steel your crown jewels. Ensure that your Face book account is set to only allow the people you want to see what you get up to can.  

Troy Stanley