The phrase cyber crime is often used in a generic sense with little thought other than computers and the internet are involved.  Yet there are literally hundreds of different ways that crimes are committed online and some of them are very surprising.   Europol has recently issued a warning of some of the common ones which we’ve included below.

The report is entitled the Fifth Annual Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment and was presented at a cyber conference in Singapore.  It ‘s a list of crimes from a law enforcement perspective and is designed to highlight emerging threats and key developments.   Their main goal is to stop people becoming victims.

 

One of the most common cyber crimes of recent years is that of ransom ware, which relies basically on installing malicious software on your computer and then demands a ransom to fix it.  Commonly this is achieved by encrypting files or data and making them inaccessible until the ransom is paid.   Individuals are not the only target for these attacks indeed the most common victim are companies and organisations who can potentially pay larger ransoms.  Using a proper antivirus program and making sure your computer is kept up to date is the best protection.

Computers and servers are not the only targets for cyber criminals. An emerging target is that of mobile devices and instances of mobile based malware are beginning to grow.    Again you should consider installing antivirus software on your phone if you use it for secure sites.   However the main source of malware on these devices is by installing applications which are used to infect them.

Most of the threats involving malware, can be reasonably protected against with a reasonable level of vigilance.  Installing Antivirus and security software is the first step, even simple free programs usually offer a decent level of protection.    Buying a decent system and paying for it to be updated though is a much better option and will protect against the majority of malware programs.  The second step is to ensure your operating system and core programs are kept up to date.  Most computer companies like Microsoft routinely release patches and updates to cover any security risks that have been discovered.

These updates can be annoying but they’re crucial to protecting your device and privacy. Malware is typically installed using weaknesses that these security updates close off, don’t leave your computer to be on the potential target list.  Most software especially the core operating system will attempt to install these updates automatically, you’d be advised to leave this setting on.

There is another major risk and unfortunately it’s one you have limited input into.  That’s the risk to your data stored by other companies who you may do business with or have accounts with.    It’s only recently that legislation has come into effect forcing businesses to protect and take care of your data.  The EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introduces severe financial sanctions, up to 4% of global turnover, for companies that fail to protect users’ privacy.

These offer numerous protections to the consumer, including procedures that must be followed in the event of a data security breach.    There is little of course that you can do to protect your data when it’s on the server of a third party company.  You should be careful about who you do business with online,  be cautious about releasing your details to smaller companies who may not have adequate security in place.

Your data and personal details are in danger in all sorts of places including when they’re being transmitted.  Again this is one area where you have to take steps to protect yourself or you’ll be at risk.  For example when travelling and using unknown wifi and access points you are particularly at risk.  You have no idea how secure these systems are and how safe your data is while being transmitted. Indeed many hotel Wifi systems are extremely tempting targets for hackers and cyber criminals who know that they can harvest lots of account details if they compromise the access points.

The safest way to secure your connection in these circumstance is to use a VPN or something that encrypts your data.  Many people use these systems for unlocking geo-locked channels like the BBC iPlayer and Hulu, but they are equally useful in protecting your data when using unfamiliar access points too.  Always ensure that your connection is encrypted, this program for example allows people to watch the BBC iPlayer from abroad but it doesn’t enable encryption rather using a DNS based system to hide your location.

The encryption is crucial, it means that even if an access point is insecure or even worse has been compromised by criminals your data should be safe.  Everything between your device and the VPN server will be encrypted which means that it would be impossible to access or read anything at the point of transmission and beyond.

These systems and services offer an essential tool especially if you travel a lot, the right VPN can unlock entertainment and protect your internet connection.  Many of the Smart DNS services though are useful purely for unlocking restricted content and have no security impact at all.  The most successful though including the methods mentioned in this page about watching Netflix abroad, usually offer a Smart DNS service plus a VPN which you can use too.