Arm yourself with know-how to win against cybercrime

“Dear Sir. A long-lost relative of yours has died and has left an inheritance of $150 000 to you. Kindly forward your banking details for transfer of funds.”

Nearly everyone who has a mobile phone or an email address has received emails and text messages like the one above, promising large amounts of money in exchange for our banking details or other information.

While many of us recognise that these are nothing more than “phishing” attacks that usually end up with the victim losing some or all of their money, it is shocking how many people actually fall for these cheap tricks.

I am approached regularly by people who receive such messages, who want to know if they should respond.

Whenever I’m approached by one of these would-be victims of phishing, my mind goes to those who do not have the luxury of asking someone for advice on these matters – that is, the vast majority of the population. What happens to them?

The short answer is, they become victims. Having little or no knowledge of technology and cybercrime, they make the mistake of either opening suspicious attachments, sharing sensitive information or making payments to dodgy bank accounts – all with dire consequences.

The global cost of cybercrime is staggering, with estimates in excess of $6 trillion (R90 trillion) a year, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. Yet, a large percent of these crimes could be avoided with a little bit of knowledge.

Our world is a technology-driven one, and is becoming increasingly so with each year as new advancements are made in technology.

To the average consumer, this essentially means two things: on one hand, new opportunities for career and business, but on the other, new dangers. While technology will undoubtedly improve our lives for the better, it will also bring with it new dangers that we need to be aware of.

This is particularly true in the hyper-connected, Internet of Things-driven world where everything – our phones, computers, cars, homes and even clothing – are becoming connected.

Whereas in the past we would hear of banks and IT companies being hacked, we are now seeing new types of cybercrimes, where homes, small businesses and even cars are being hacked.

Cybercrime is becoming everything in crime. Again because people have connected their entire lives to the Internet, that’s where those who want to steal money, or hurt kids or defraud go. So, it’s an epidemic for reasons that make sense. ~ James Corney

Without proper security measures in place, hackers are able to break into home security systems and smart home systems. Once they have control of your home system, they are able to control everything that is connected to the system: your alarm system, your security camera systems, air-conditioning, lights, appliances, automatic gates – pretty much everything.

In our increasingly connected world, these scenarios are becoming more likely. Where we have the traditional types of crime, terrorism and warfare today, in the near future these will all take place in the cyber world.

As much as we need to know self-defence to protect ourselves, we need to know basic cybersecurity to protect our devices and data; and as much as countries have police forces and armies to defend against attacks, they need cybersecurity experts to protect its networks.

What will be our best defence in the future? The short answer: knowledge. 

We all need to become “personal cybersecurity practitioners”.

At the national level, we need a small army of highly-skilled cyber-security experts who are at the forefront of defending our country against cyberattacks.

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