The Unreliable Guide to… CybercrimeThe Unreliable Guide was recently targeted by some malicious emails claiming that the writer had hacked my email account, placed spyware on my computer and, unless a large sum of money was paid within 24 hours, they would send pictures of me wanking over porn sites to my entire contact list. The Unreliable Guide does not visit porn sites, so the threat was clearly empty, but I’m sure many of you do and emails like this can cause serious panic.
It has been estimated that cyber- crime could be costing us $2.1 trillion by 2019. Fraud, extortion, terrorism – our reliance on the Internet is magnificently useful for criminals. The kind of personal and financial information we used to keep locked in a drawer in our homes is now all digitised, guarded by some hope- fully vigilant third party.
Security researcher Troy Hunt believes that more than 500 mil- lion passwords have been leaked through security breaches. You can check the security of your email at his website, www.haveibeenpwned.com. In addition, The Unreliable Guide has some tips and tricks to keep you safe in cyberspace…
WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET E-BLACKMAIL
First of all, before you do anything else, disconnect from the Internet and run a malware check on your computer to see if there really is any spyware. Install malware-detecting software now, before you think you need it. Schedule it to check your devices regularly. There is some great software out there for both Mac and PC. Hopefully the email threat will be an idle one (mine was), but if something is found you can destroy or quarantine the virus and take the appropriate steps to safeguard your data.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
Once you know you are free from malware you can set about investigating further. Does the email have anything directly connected to your private information? Quite often it’s just a random ‘phishing’ email, hoping to lure the scared and gullible into paying up. If it does have some real information about you, think about that information. Where could they have found it? Do they have your password? The Airbnb website was recently hacked, compromising millions of emails and pass- words. Facebook was famously hacked last year. All you can do is make sure you have different passwords for everything, make those passwords complicated and change them frequently. Consider any e-blackmail as a heads-up to improve your online security.
YOUR ONLINE SAFETY
Reading any articles about online safety is enough to give you a sleepless night, but here is the thing: just as it is in the real world, most places are safe and most people are fine. Just use your common sense, check facts, be alert and, when in doubt, try online research. Most scams will have been tried out on someone else before you and they may well have written about it. Learn from them.
Finally, The Unreliable Guide suggests that if you do enjoy viewing porn sites, invest in an opaque sticker that you can place over your computer’s camera when you’re doing the nasty. That way you can wank away to your heart’s content safe in the knowledge that no one is watching you.