How to keep your family safe from cyber criminals

You might have installed security doors and an alarm system in your house but have you thought about having security for your PC and mobile devices as well? If you haven’t already, you may be putting yourself and your family at risk of cybercrime.

Thieves frequently use the internet to steal identities and financial information. If successful they often use this information, with a devastating impact on their victims.

The latest Norton Cybersecurity Report indicates that 594 million people have been affected by cybercrime worldwide. But the good news is with the right kind of software and by following a few precautions you can ensure this never happens to you.

What are some of the common scams to look out for?

More people than ever before are using the internet to shop, do their banking, post on message boards and social networks, giving cybercriminals more opportunities to steal valuable personal information.

As online security gets tighter, cybercriminals think up new ways to exploit their victims, making it tricker than ever before to stop them.

Here are some scams that more and more Australians are falling victim to:

Crypto Ransomware
This kind of attack occurs when the victim is tricked into running a malicious file that then encrypts their files. Their computer or mobile device still operates, but the ransomware holds all or some of the victim’s files to ransom.

Victims often are unable to access their most valuable files such as pictures and documents and these files may be gradually deleted. Cybercriminals then ransom these files back to the victims for a fee, or make victims pay for software to unlock them.

“We’ve seen a massive increase in attacks of crypto ransomware on individuals here in Australia,” says Nick Savvides, Security Strategist for Asia Pacific and Japan at Symantec, the makers of Norton security products.

“Imagine someone saying all of your photos and memories of your kids are locked up and you can’t access them anymore. A lot of people will just want to pay the ransoms, which is why this kind of malware has been so successful for cybercriminals,” he says.

Banking/Phishing scams
Phishing scammers seek to hook in their victims with emails disguised as companies or government institutions.

Recent phishing emails have been disguised as lotteries, telcos and utilities providers as well as banks and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. These scams often require you to enter personal details or may direct you to malicious websites that ask you to provide details. Other times they may ask you to pay an ‘advance fee’ in order to claim a non-existent prize or service.

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Check the email address of senders claiming to be from a company or government institution

Mobile Scams
This is a growing threat that many mobile device users might not be aware of. Smart phones and tablets are frequently the target of calls or SMS messages from cybercriminals claiming to be able to fix viruses or offering free services or prizes thereby leading their owners to fall victim to payment scams.

The sophistication of mobile devices, which now allow users to search the internet and access emails has also made infecting these devices with malicious malware or tricking users with phishing scams a serious threat.

What can I do to protect myself and my family?

Never open email attachments that look suspect or return unknown calls or respond to unknown SMS messages
As a general rule if you don’t recognise who the sender of an email is, don’t open the email attachments. This goes for unknown calls on mobile phones and unknown SMS messages too.

How can you identify fake emails? Phishing emails will often give themselves away by their lack of professionalism – they may contain poor grammar, strange phrases, and website addresses with unusual extensions, so keep an eye out for anything that doesn’t look right. If something looks suspect to you, it probably is.

Never respond to emails that ask for personal details or click links
Proper companies will never require you to send personal or financial information via email or SMS as this is too risky.

If you are unsure about a request for information, don’t click on any links contained in the email or reply to the SMS. Instead, phone the company and provide details securely over the phone, or enter the company’s official web address in your browser to ensure you visit the correct website.

Make sure you are visiting legitimate websites
Typing web addresses is a good way to ensure you are going to a legitimate website, but there are some extra precautions you can take to ensure you’re not visiting fraudulent websites.

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Having "https" in the web address line means that the connection has a secure connection certificate

Secure banking and shopping websites usually contain the letter “S” after the http (for example) and if personal details are required, they will often ask if you want to turn on encryption to which you should always answer ‘yes’.

A lock or padlock in the address bar is a good sign that login or payment processes on the website are secure. Some secure websites display the Norton Secured seal that means the website is trustworthy and has been protected against malware.

Check the privacy policies of the websites you visit
Legitimate websites usually have privacy policies that will safeguard any personal information you may be required to give, so be sure to read them to know how your personal information will be used and or reused.

Review your bank and credit card statements regularly
Regular checks of your financial statements for your bank accounts and credit cards is the best way to see if your financial details have been stolen. Some banks will alert you if any suspicious transactions have occurred but it’s best to double check yourself and immediately report any transactions that you haven’t made.

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Be sure to check your bank statements regularly for suspicious charges

Install security software to protect against malware
Security software can be one of your most powerful tools against online scammers. Antivirus software such as Norton Antivirus protects your computer from viruses, spyware, malware and other online threats.

This software automatically scans your emails and email attachments and monitors your web browser for any threats while you’re surfing the internet.

Norton Antivirus will also protect your devices from spyware that allows hackers to spy on your personal files and from adware – a form of software that downloads or displays unwanted ads on your computer or mobile device.

Use security software for firewall protection
A firewall is like a virtual force field that monitors all incoming and outgoing online traffic, keeping you safe from online intruders. Rather than looking for firewall protection as a separate software application, there are some great products on the market that offer everything you need in one comprehensive integrated suite. Norton Security Premium is one. This product protects you from a variety of online threats by integrating antivirus and antispyware protection as well as firewall protection. It helps protect your identity and safeguard your online transactions. Norton Security Deluxe and Norton Mobile Security also protect your mobile Android and iOS devices.

Take care with passwords and PINS
Never save passwords or PINs on your computer or mobile devices and especially not on laptops that are more frequently stolen. Remember to update your passwords regularly and when choosing passwords avoid using names you know, or interests that you might have that thieves can easily find clues about on social media.

Choose passwords carefully
Use at least one number and one upper and lower case letter for extra security. Passwords can quite often be stolen by keylogging. That’s when scammers use malicious software to secretly record the keys you type into your keyboard. This is another reason to have the latest antivirus security software loaded on your PC or mobile device. For added password protection use Norton Security Premium which encrypts your passwords and makes sure you’re not entering them somewhere you shouldn’t be by mistake.

Keep your operating system up to date
Your security software will need to have the latest patches and updates installed to ensure it can keep you safe from the newest cyberattacks. Norton products update automatically when you log onto the internet, making it easy to stay up to date with the latest protection. You can make sure your operating system is up to date to get the best out of your security software.

Be wary of free downloads and pirated software
The saying “nothing is really free in life” is never more relevant than when talking about free online downloads. Free music, games, movies and even some antivirus programs that you find online, can install harmful software applications that can damage your PC or mobile device and put you at risk of fraud. Scammers often plant malicious software in torrents and pirated software downloads as well, so steer clear of any free downloads that sound too good to be true.

Monitor your device’s performance
If your computer or device is running slowly, takes a long time to boot up, has frequent pop ups or suddenly has no memory, it may already be infected with a virus or another kind of malicious software. If this is the case, scanning with a virus scanner such as Norton Antivirus that seeks and destroys threats may be your best choice.

Norton Security products come with PC cloud backup that means you can save your valuable information in a virtual deposit box so that if anything happens to your computer or device your files are still protected.

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Do regular virus scans on your devices to ensure it is well protected

How does Norton Security Premium work to protect users?

Savvides says Norton Security Premium offers a number of protection mechanisms when scanning potentially dangerous files on computers and mobile devices.

The program scans file signatures to determine if a file has a signature for known bad behaviour and also determines the file’s reputation – whether or not it came from a web address known to have dangerous files. It also finds a unique fingerprint for the file and then asks the internet how many times that file has been spotted.

“There’s a correlation between the uniqueness of a file and how bad it is,” he says.

The next protection mechanism in the program scans the contents of the file and evaluates the coding, Savvides explains. The final protection mechanism watches the file once it has been executed and looks for specific behaviours that the program knows is bad.

“If the file starts to open lots of files and encrypts them for example, the program will recognise that and stop that from occurring,” he says.

Have you been a victim of an online scam or virus? Let us know in the comments below.