Beware of Cybercriminal Attempts

By Chris Alton

With mysterious terms like “spear phishing” and “malware,” cybercrime sounds far out instead of a common daily threat. The truth: cybercrime cost the world economy more than $450 billion in 2016. And smart phones are cyber criminals’ best friends because the way we use them makes stealing easier.

We’re often not as careful as we should be on our smart phones, using them to quickly complete tasks coming in through our email. It’s not as easy to spot spear fishing attempts or avoid clicking on malware pop-ups on our tiny phones, even on phones with giant six-inch screens.

Perhaps you’re wondering what these terms mean exactly. Spear phishing is a targeted scamming attempt where a cyber criminal takes over someone’s email, asking people they’re connected to purchase an item or settle an invoice. Of course, this sounds like something you would obviously avoid. But take this recent example. A client of mine received an email from her box who was out-of-town. The boss asked her to purchase gift cards to use as client gifts. Imagine getting an email directive from your boss, saying “Hey, I’m at a funeral so I don’t have time to take care of this work task. Can you do it for me?”

On your computer, it might be easier to tell this email isn’t from your boss. Hint: look at the reply email and you’ll notice that the email is really from a random, strange looking email address. But you’re on your smart phone, working quickly, the print is small, and the weird design layout of the email isn’t so easy to notice. And this is your boss asking for help. It’s easy to feel stupid after you buy-in to a spear phishing scam, but these are smartly designed lures.

Malware pop-ups are also designed to be easy to click. Malware is the nickname for malicious software, meaning software that is created with evil intentions. That pop-up that you click-on thanks to your smart phone’s screen size might be malware. Perhaps you’ve heard of malware pop-ups that fill up your entire screen, even speaking to you. Call me if your computer screen asks you to call someone!

Cybercrime isn’t going away because it works for the criminal. My favorite forms of protection for my clients is Webroot antivirus software and WatchGuard firewalls. We also set up extra protection for our business clients’ email servers, too. We’ll continue to keep informed on these criminals’ latest techniques; it’s our job to help prevent and minimize cybercrime. Think of it as security, like buying locks for your doors, bars for your windows and an alarm system.

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