It’s been a little less than 25 years since Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web following his dream of a better, easier way to communicate via computers on a global scale. And what an invention it was!
From a mere 5,498,269 in 2000, the Internet was accessed by a whopping 243,198,922 Indians in 2014. Around 40 percent of the world’s population has an Internet connection, accounting for over 3 billion users. Everything we do on the Internet leaves a trail of breadcrumbs about our location, finances and relationships. With cybercrime on the rise and nearly 1 million new security threats released every single day (viruses, hacks or identify threats), all of this information is at risk of being exposed.
According to a recent Symantec Intelligence Report- for the first time in more than a decade the amount of spam (most common online threat) has fallen to less than 50 per cent of the total volume of email globally in the month of June 2015.
The last time Symantec recorded a similar spam rate was clear back in September of 2003. However, there were 57.6 million new malware variants created in June, up from 44.5 million pieces of malware created in May and 29.2 million in April. This increase in activity lends more evidence to the idea that, with the continued drops in email-based malicious activity, attackers are simply moving to other areas of the threat landscape.
The cybercriminals of today are also inherently lazy; they prefer automated tools and the help of unwitting consumers to do their dirty work. India’s growing social media population proved to be a ready base for cybercriminals last year, making it the second most targeted country in the world for social media scams and highest in the Asia Pacific region. Infact, in 2014, over 80 percent of these scams were shared manually in India, as attackers took advantage of people’s willingness to trust content shared by their friends.
The report also pointed out that while social media scams can provide cybercriminals with quick cash, some rely on lucrative and aggressive attack methods like ransomware. India reported the third highest ransomware in Asia, with over 60,000 attacks received per year or about 7 attacks per hour. Instead of pretending to be law enforcement seeking a fine for stolen content, as we have seen with traditional ransomware, the more vicious crypto-ransomware attack style holds a victim’s files, photos and other digital content hostage without masking the attacker’s intention. In India, a staggering 86 percent of all ransomware were crypto-ransomware.
The cyber criminals typically charge between $300 and $500 to free the files, and paying up doesn’t even guarantee the data back.
In such a scenario, it is essential to educate kids as well as first-time Internet users, such as parents or grandparents, about the possibilities of cyber crooks using information for cyber stalking or keeping track of online and offline activities.
There are steps that netizens can take on a daily basis to increase their understanding of privacy and online ethics, as well as online well-being while we make the most of the internet –
1) Use strong passwords: This cannot be emphasized enough. Use strong and unique passwords for your accounts and devices, and update them on a regular basis—ideally every three months. Never use the same password for multiple accounts. Consider using password management tools.
2) Protect yourself: Use a comprehensive security software on all your personal devices to protect against spyware, viruses, malware etc. Such software programs will also maintain privacy, avoid unsafe websites and suspicious downloads, locate lost or stolen devices, and most importantly ensures that people feel confident of doing what they do on the WWW.
3) Be cautious on social media: Don’t click links in unsolicited email or social media messages, particularly from unknown sources. Scammers know people are more likely to click on links from their friends, so they compromise accounts to send malicious links to the account owner’s contacts.
4) Use Privacy Settings on Social Media Sites: Most social media sites will give you options to select who you are sharing your information with. Be sure those settings are set for trusted individuals and friends, rather than set to public for the whole world to see.
5) Know what you’re sharing: When installing a network-connected device, such as a home router or thermostat, or downloading a new app, review the permissions to see what data you’re giving up. Disable remote access when not needed.
6) Be wary of scareware tactics: Versions of software that claim to be free, cracked or pirated can expose you to malware, or social engineering attacks that attempt to trick you into thinking your computer is infected and getting you to pay money to have it removed.
By Ritesh Chopra, Country Manager – India, Norton by Symantec.
(Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author.)
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