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“Don’t let the criminals win”: how to stay safe online during confinement

Written by on 20 avril 2020

With so many people working from home, increased use of different technological devices and applications, cyber criminal activity is very much on the rise. Today we are speaking to Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, one of the biggest internet safety companies in Europe. So Tony, just how much evidence is there that cybercrime is on the rise in Europe?

I have never seen one topic be the subject of so many cybercrime attacks. If you see a website that has Covid-19 in the title, 50% of those are fraudulent. Everyone is being targeted.

And obviously cybercrime comes in many forms, so what in particular poses the biggest threats to people working or living in quarantine?

Emails, texts, posts claiming to collect money for vaccines, giving donations to needy people, investment scams profiting from the stock exchange and shares around the world going up and down. This is happening everywhere.

And is the danger even bigger for companies who are still working from home in trying to communicate with these applications with which they are perhaps unfamiliar?

People are in an environment where they feel protected, yet doing something they wouldn’t necessarily do in a normal working scenario. We have got to go back to basics, and check we are doing everything we are doing to protect ourselves, our children and our businesses.

You’ve been working in cybercrime for 20-25 years. Are there any strategies that you’ve seen adopted in the past in times of crisis that could be adopted once again?

I’m shocked but never surprised. The first examples we really started seeing were natural disasters – for example minutes after a big tsunami, you would see the first emails minutes after. In this case, because of the length of time it is taking, this is by far the biggest fraudulent attempt. Criminals are bright, and nothing is off limits for them. But the Internet is a fantastic place – let’s remember the good points about the internet but try and keep ourselves safe from the bad points.

Just how much more vulnerable are the people given that they are using applications for the first time?

There is always a danger in this. Search around the internet – find out the things you should do when setting that system up. Youtube is probably one of the best things on the internet. Anything you want to know is available.

Is there any applications as well? I saw for example that Zoom were led to introduce a waiting room for their calls – was this an oversight initially from them and does it show the level of dangers?

A waiting room for Zoom is a very good idea. Reputational damage can happen within hours, and it takes potentially years to build up. None of these companies want to have that accolade put around their neck. If they don’t act quickly, people will stop using it.

If I were to generalise slightly, there are two extremes when it comes to internet users. The reckless, who click on links that promise £1.000.000 and the timorous, who refuse to give their email address to their own family. Is there universal advice that can be widely applied to both ends of this so-called spectrum?

Be suspicious. Unfortunately, in this day and age we need to be. Think about it, but don’t be afraid because the internet is a fantastic place.

We have spoken about phishing and fraudulent emails, are there any other types of cybercrime to be on the lookout for?

Seeing advertising for all sorts of products in relation to the coronavirus. I would ask anyone who is listening to this, don’t just think that the ones that we have spoken about are the ones that are out there, there are going to be thousands more. Pass on the message too, if you have a bit of knowledge, share it.

Is there also something to be said about the state of heightened fear and panic that could lead to a susceptibility to making erroneous decisions?

We can be alarmed, frightened and as a result we will make decisions we really shouldn’t be making. When we suddenly see an email that is threatening us or giving us some sort of advantage, then we might immediately jump out and do it. Don’t. Think about it, be suspicious and do your research before you do anything. Don’t let the criminals win.

Some very useful advice for anyone listening whether they are working from home or not. Visit getsafeonline.org for more information on internet security.


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