June 16, 2024

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The internet – an influential invention that’s transformed our lives over the past three decades. Today, a staggering 5.5 billion people worldwide use it. But, surprisingly few comprehend its intricacies.

This knowledge gap often leads to compromised online safety, as the digital world evolves into an environment as unstable as it is handy. Leading cybersecurity specialist, Michael Jensen from Ste. Agathe, steps in here.

Jensen earned his reputation working with top intelligence institutions such as the Department of National Defence. Part of his daily duties involves investigating the latest internet scams and hacks, keeping his finger on the digital underworld’s pulse.

His professional paranoia may seem overbearing, but Jensen believes we should all share this skeptical attitude towards the digital world. If more people exercised caution online, internet scams would be less prevalent.

Fortunately, we’re starting to see built-in technologies to identify risky emails and calls on computer and mobile operating systems. Jensen encourages everyone to heed these warnings.

It’s alarming how lucrative cybercrime has become. Well-experienced internet users and the vast financial spoils are two reasons behind this rise. In 2022, crypto thefts alone accounted for a whopping $3.8 billion – more than all global bank heists in history combined!

Different types of Scams

Financial and Crypto Scams

Scammers employ various tactics to dupe people into parting with their money or cryptocurrency. Sometimes it’s persuasive investment pitches on bogus websites. Other times, hackers infiltrate personal crypto wallets or exchange platforms.

The scale of these operations is astounding. Major criminal organisations, and even state-backed entities like North Korea, are getting in on the act.

Social Media Scams

Social media scams are familiar territory for most users. All sorts of deceptive posts cross our feeds daily – from fake business services and promotions to false friendship or job opportunities.

Once you’re enticed into clicking a link or engaging with these posts, you, your data, and your entire contact list are placed at risk.

Pig Butchering and Human Trafficking

“Pig butchering” is another notorious scam. Scammers invest time (often months) in cultivating relationships, laying the groundwork to eventually swindle victims.

This strategy surfaces anywhere from text messaging to dating apps. The con artists are so adept they often exploit vulnerable targets through rigged websites they’ve set up.

The corrupted investment strategies sometimes even stage small, successful transactions to earn the victim’s trust before disappearing with substantial investments.

Darker still, some of these operations use human trafficking – kidnapping innocent people, confiscating their identities, and forcing them to execute scams under threat.

One such ring was recently busted in Cambodia, liberating 200 trafficked victims. Crime syndicates like these have proliferated to the point where they function like legitimate businesses, with dedicated HR, payroll, and accounting departments.

Guarding Against Online Scams

So, given this grim situation, what measures can you take to stay safe in the digital realm?

Jensen suggests keeping your social media presence to a minimum and checking the privacy settings to limit the information available to potential fraudsters.

Besides, be skeptical of unsolicited communications, especially those asking for personal details or money. Trust your instincts – if something feels off, it probably is. Legitimate entities won’t pressure you into making immediate decisions.

Lastly, consider engaging a reputable security professional to protect your digital assets if you hold significant investments in them.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the primary purpose of online scams and hacking?

Generally, the main intent behind online scams and hacking is to steal your identity or to rob you of your money. Cybercriminals exploit various tactics, such as deceptive investment pitches or hacking into your crypto wallet or exchange platform.

Why is cybercrime on the rise?

Two key reasons Cybercrime is escalating are the vast financial rewards and the increasing number of experienced internet users. In 2022 alone, the money stolen via crypto-related thefts surpassed the total amount stolen in all recorded bank heists combined!

How can we protect ourselves from being scammed online?

Limit your social media presence, always check your privacy settings, and stay skeptical of unsolicited communications, especially those requesting personal details or financial investments. If you have significant digital investments, consider enlisting a reliable security professional to protect your assets.

After about a decade in existence, ransomware technology has progressed from targeting individual computers to larger organizations. Initially, attackers would hack into personal computers, encrypting personal files such as pictures and bank statements. They would then demand ransom money in exchange for the documents. However, the focus has now shifted to larger entities, including legal offices, educational institutions and real estate companies, where the potential financial gains are immense.

A case in point is the University of Winnipeg, which fell victim to such an attack this year, consequently endangering the personal data of thousands of students and staff. Moreover, MGM Grand and Caesar’s Palace hotel and casinos also had a run-in with ransomware attackers who managed to steal $300 million. Daniel Jensen, reveals that Conti, a scamming enterprise with a net worth of around $2.6 billion, was brought down last year.

Email compromise still holds the top spot among scamming strategies. People store all sorts of private information in their email accounts, including tax documents, copies of identification documents, and contact lists of friends and family. Jensen narrates a personal experience where he almost fell victim to a scam during the purchase of his new home. Thankfully, he contacted his lawyer before falling into the trap.

It’s crucial that everyone learns how to verify the actual source of suspicious emails since attackers can change the display name of the sender, to deceive the recipient. Here, knowledge on checking email headers can prove invaluable.

When it comes to online banking and shopping, Jensen assures that most well-known banks offer sufficient online security measures. However, it’s easier for attackers to get individuals to give up their banking or credit card information compared to obtaining the data from the bank itself. He also advises online shoppers to ensure that the websites they are using have the required security features.

Finally, Jensen warns against the dangers of “Cookie Session Theft”. This technique allows attackers to access personal data saved in cookies, even on secure websites. To stay safe, Jensen recommends completing your purchase and logging out before clicking on any popups or ads.

#### Frequently Asked Questions

##### What are recent examples of Ransomware attacks?
There have been several recent examples of ransomware attacks. One example is the attack on the University of Winnipeg this year that jeopardised the personal information of thousands of students and staff. Another high-profile case involved the MGM Grand and Caesar’s Palace hotel and casinos in Las Vegas, where the attackers demanded $300 million in Ransoms.

##### What is the most common method for executing scams online?
One of the most common methods for executing online scams is through email compromise. Attackers infiltrate email accounts and access a variety of personal information contained in them, including tax documents, passwords, and identification copies. They can also manipulate email headers to mislead the recipient about the sender’s identity.

##### How can online shoppers ensure the security of their personal information?
Online shoppers can ensure the security of their personal information in several ways. For instance, they need to ensure that the websites they use for shopping have the necessary security features. Additionally, they should learn how to validate the authenticity of emails and suspicious links. Moreover, upon completing a purchase, they should log out of the website before clicking on any popups or ads, this will help avoid “Cookie Session Theft”.

Jensen thinks that mobile apps aren’t exactly trustworthy yet. Even though tech titans like Apple Pay use advanced security measures, if your phone suffers from a malware attack, your mobile transactions become susceptible. As he puts it, “The weak point is usually with the end user. Someone makes a mistake that enables the hacker to obtain information.”

**Passwords, Encryption, and Multifactor Authentication**

Says Jensen, “if your password is less than ten characters, hackers can easily crack it in under 30 seconds using freely available tools.” This makes it vital to have longer, more complex passwords or passphrases. He recommends combinations of four unrelated, random things, such as bookchairkeylamp. For better security, include some numbers and symbols: book$chair%key$lamp3. Also, always use different passwords for each online application. This way, even if one gets compromised, the rest of your data is safe.

Be aware that social media can aid scammers in figuring out your passwords. Often, online questionnaires promising to help your friends learn more about you are devised by scammers. As Jensen explains, “If I was a hacker, I’d build a dictionary on you using your responses to these questions. Then, I’d use this information to decode your passwords.”

Preserve your social media by being careful about the data you display. Many use these platforms as free storage for their family photos, but these can be at risk. He warns, “Once you put your stuff on the internet, you can’t withdraw it. It’s out there forever.”

For storing sensitive information on your computer, Jensen advocates encrypting files. “There are ways to protect them digitally,” he assures. Furthermore, keep duplicates of essential data in separate places, like a USB or another computer. Files saved on Cloud services should also be encrypted.

Jensen highly rates multifactor authentication (MFA). He reinforces it’s not just for online banking but can be applied to various social media accounts and apps. However, he notes that some sites like Amazon are yet to implement MFA.

**Reporting Scams**

Staying silent about scams only perpetuates their success. It’s crucial to report such incidents promptly. Produce a report to local law enforcement. Although it may not recover your lost money, it aids in building a case against these frauds. If scams occur on social media, report them there too.

**Virtual Private Networks and Antivirus Systems**

According to Jensen, virtual private networks (VPNs) aren’t the panacea for online security that some believe. They’re appropriate for encrypting or concealing online activities, but don’t provide comprehensive protection against scams.

“VPNs are not effective antivirus systems or firewalls.,” Jensen points out. “They don’t really keep you safe.”

However, Jensen is an advocate for a good antivirus system on your device. As he says, “Online safety doesn’t need to be expensive.”

To sum it up, staying safe online requires vigilance. Understand the system, put effort into protecting yourself, and maintain a healthy level of skepticism.

#### Frequently Asked Questions

#### Is it safe to use mobile payment apps?

While companies like Apple Pay use advanced security tools, they are not invulnerable. If your phone is infected with malware, your mobile transactions are at risk.

#### How to create strong passwords?

To make your password secure, use a combination of 10+ characters including letters, numbers, and symbols. Make sure that it’s nothing that can be easily associated with you or your personal life.

#### What are the benefits of multifactor authentication?

Multifactor authentication provides an additional layer of security. It requires users to verify their identity in multiple ways, greatly reducing the likelihood of account breaches.