The advent of technology has made it convenient for professionals to engage online from anywhere in the world. This, however, comes with a number of risks, which could lead to loss of money and digital privacy.
Cybercriminals can steal your personal and financial information, which they can use to defraud you or sell on the dark web. Therefore, it is important to protect yourself from these risks.
Internet Security is the practice of protecting your online activities from hackers, scammers etc. The users most at risk are those who transact & work online.
Here are some of the ways in which you can protect yourself online from scammers & hackers online.
#1. Use Antivirus Software
If you are attacked by malware, it can lead to severe damage to your device, and even compromise your data security. If this happens, it could give hackers the opportunity to have access to your personal information, or even take over your device.
When installed on your device, Antivirus scans it for any suspicious files. If detected, it will remove the virus and infected files and quarantine them.
The Antivirus needs to be updated regularly, because according to Kaspersky Security Bulletin 2021 Statistics, about 114 million malicious URLs triggered Kaspersky web antivirus in 2021. The report also said malicious miners also attacked over 1 million unique crypto users.
The Kaspersky report also recorded attempts by malware to steal money from bank accounts of 429,354 users.
Every time a new virus is found, it assigned a unique signature, and the database of viruses is updated by the antivirus manufacturer. This is why you must update your antivirus when prompted.
Today advanced malware embed themselves in the rootkit of your device operating system, and wield administrative control. However, Antivirus updates now scan the rootkit, and takeout these strong malwares.
There is also the menace of fake antivirus programs, which are in reality just malware. You install them and they pretend to scan for viruses, but rather steal information.
However, do know that while antivirus software could be an important tool to protect your device, it is not a replacement for maintaining good web hygiene.
#2. Enable Two Factor Authentication (2FA)
2FA is another key security measure. It adds an extra layer of protection by requiring a code, or biometrics in addition to your password, to grant you access.
As passwords alone are not enough to keep your account secure, 2FA gives your online accounts additional security. In fact, a good number of online service providers now offer 2FA.
However, sending an SMS code to your mobile phone can be dangerous, as hackers now engage in SIM-swapping so as to get the verification code. To solve this problem, authentication apps have been built.
What these authentication apps do is that they generate a verification code which you use to login. It is advisable to install the authentication app on another device, so that even if your active device is stolen, the criminals won’t get the code.
Examples of authentication apps include: Microsoft Authenticator, Authy and Google Authenticator.
Many scammers are beginning to shift their attention from banking apps to trading apps, because many brokerage companies don’t invest as much as banks do in IT infrastructure. Many of the brokers still have outdated infrastructure, and lack of firewalls on their web servers.
Today it is not uncommon to see trading apps that don’t support biometric features, but most bank apps do, because banks have to keep your security standards up to date. But brokers necessarily don’t.
A scammer infiltrating your trading app, could result in him using your account for pump and dump fraud. Pumping means instead of withdrawing your funds, he uses it to buy huge volumes of worthless assets, thus creating a false impression the asset is being sought after.
Buying large quantities increases demand for the asset, and pushes the price up, and the scammer then sells his holding which he had earlier bought at the low price, and makes a profit.
As a general advice for traders, before downloading a trading app, be sure to find out if the brokerage is regulated or not, and has it got enough resources to invest in security of its infrastructure and cloud. For retail traders in Africa, the trading apps of licensed South African brokers are generally considered to be at lower risk of security breaches or data loss, because these brokers have to comply with the security standards set by the regulators.
In the past, servers of popular brokerages & banks, or their related third-parties have been infiltrated by hackers due to poor infrastructure, and data of clients have been stolen. So, it is really important to avoid apps that have been reported for data breaches in the past.
For example, the data personal details of 1.7 million Nedbank customers were at risk due to data breach at third-party company, Computer Facilities (Pty) Ltd, which they used for marketing campaigns.
So, you should use a strong password to protect your online accounts, and actively change them. Do not use weak passwords such as date of birth or surname, which can be easy to guess. Also, never use the same password for different accounts.
Ideally, a strong password should contain at least 12 characters with a mixture of upper and lower-case letters, symbols as well as numbers.
#3. Do Not Click On Unknown Links
Data has shown that many malware attacks happen when users click on malicious links. According to a tech and cybersecurity firm, Cisco, 67.5% of those who click on suspicious links are likely to fall victim to cyber-attacks by entering their login credentials.
The users most at risk are professionals & even gamers. This is because these users many have to actively engage via email & online messaging.
It is important that you avoid clicking on unknown or suspicious links. Some of these links are sent to your email address posing as legitimate companies or personalities. You can hover your cursor over a link to reveal the true destination URL.
Additionally, do not trust any unsolicited emails, and be suspicious of any email marked as urgent. Cisco reported that 94% of malware on computers, found its way there through email phishing.
Unsolicited messages can contain viruses or malware that can compromise your personal information such as password, and credit card details.
Many scammers target professionals by sending them phishing emails, where your unsuspectingly click the link in the email which would direct them to a login page that looks just like the login page on the actual website that your wanted to visit. Entering your details on this phishing page would compromise your account.
In some cases, scammers will offer you deals that are too good to be true, prompting you to click on a link that will take you to the offer. Once you click on the link, malware could be downloaded to your device, or you could be redirected to a fake version of the login page of the purported sender.
When you’re on the fake login page, any details you enter reflects at the scammers end, and is stolen. The fake page will then show an error, and redirect you to the authentic page, so you don’t suspect foul play.
If an unsolicited email message poses to be from a well-known organization such as a bank, or a brokerage, go to the organization’s website directly instead of clicking on links in the email.
In addition, look out for the spelling of the website in an unsolicited message. In most cases, the spellings might look similar, but there will always be a misspelling.
Also, do not give personal or financial information to a suspicious or unsolicited email message. Oftentimes, it turns out to be a scam.
It is advisable you should be careful when you receive messages or links from unknown sources. Make sure you use a spam filter, and avoid clicking on links or downloading files from unknown sources.
#4. Do Not Install Apps From Unknown Sources
As an active online person, you will need numerous applications to rely on for your activities. This can be for messaging, banking, gaming, trading, or even entertainment. Therefore, you should be careful and certain of the applications you have on your devices.
Millions of people have fallen victim to online fraud because they installed applications from unknown sources on the internet.
Applications downloaded from unverified sources can also contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers.
As an online trader, your primary place of getting applications for your mobile devices should be on Google Play Store or Apple App Store. You can also get applications from trusted enterprise app stores.
Although not totally guaranteed for safety, apps from the above sources could give you a degree of security because of their stringent regulation for app developers. These sources also verify individual applications before they are made available for download.
Though both Google and Apple have strict regulations and often remove harmful or malicious applications when detected, there are chances that some innocent people might have downloaded the bad apps before they are discovered.
Always check the date the app was uploaded and compare it to the download count. If a popular app was uploaded a longtime ago and still has few downloads, it’s a red flag.
The user review section also gives insight to third party perspective from other users. Consistent bad reviews means something is wrong with the app, and unusually good reviews without substance could also mean the review is fake.
#5. Use a VPN When Using Public Wifi
While public Wi-Fi has become a popular way of connecting to the internet, it, however, poses a great security risk to your online presence, especially if you are accessing your banking, or trading account via public internet connection.
Public Wi-Fi networks are often unencrypted, meaning that your online activity can be easily intercepted by cybercriminals.
Thereby, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) could create a secure and encrypted connection between your device and the internet, protecting your online activity from prying eyes, by encrypting sensitive data.
When using public Wi-Fi, your data could be vulnerable to interception by anyone on the same network. However, a VPN will encrypt your internet traffic, and also protect your online privacy.
Additionally, while using a VPN, your internet service provider (ISP) cannot see what you are doing online, which means they cannot track your activity or sell your data to advertisers.
In essence, if you frequently use public Wifi, you should ensure you have a paid VPN in place to give you online privacy.
Accidents Hurt, Safety Doesn’t
Your online privacy should be taken more seriously, especially with the spate of cyber scams in recent times. Most at risk are the users who deal with finance, for example, the day traders, because there is money involved & scammers target such users.
Always endeavour to use strong passwords, and do not use the same password for multiple accounts which can make you more vulnerable to hacking.
Be cautious of any unsolicited messages or any platform that seeks your personal information such as credit card numbers. It is also important to change your passwords regularly to further increase security.
And lastly, be mindful of the information you share on social media, as it could be used by cybercriminals to access your accounts or steal your identity, or create fake accounts in your name.