In the wrong hands, this sensitive information could ruin an individual financially and otherwise. And yet, the average internet user is not as savvy about cyber security as she should be. Nobody ever actually reads the terms and conditions when creating a new account or updating an app. And we tend to use the same or similar passwords for everything.
Given that the holistic online shift is increasingly including education, with options such as online and distance learning
, it's important to educate people on cyber security.
Let’s have a look at some of the current cyber security issues to help protect against malware and identify fake news, adverts and sites. We’ll explore what it means to be conned by clickbait, look at hackers and hotspots, and examine phishing and catfishing. Of course, this isn’t all-inclusive, as online scammers are always developing novel ways to trick internet users. Conned by clickbait
Not all clickbait leads to false information; some cases are real stories using hyperbolic or sensationalist headlines or pictures to increase website traffic. However, false news stories and false job ads often take the form of clickbait too.
False clickbait stories play on our susceptibility to that irresistibly outrageous scoop. The ones that are too provocative or delicious to scroll past, even though you realise they’re probably drivel, are the stories that have truly mastered the art and concept of clickbait.
News stories of questionable quality and accuracy use these suggestive headlines to lure mass viewers to their sites, which drives traffic and generates advertising revenue. According to Africa Check
, these free sites “exist to make money from the ads they display”.
Facebook-sharing is one of the main reasons these stories spread the way that they do and, as Africa Check
points out, responsible Facebook users should be more careful about what they share and should report fake news posts while selecting the “false news story” option as the reason.
Anyone can publish content on the internet and, in some senses, this is a great thing. Information has become egalitarian and news hierarchies are being challenged by citizen journalism. However, people who get their news from Facebook and share posts without verifying them not only risk looking like total idiots, but can also contribute to the spreading of deceptive or harmful information. Africa Check
is particularly great at picking up false news stories as they arise, so I’d suggest checking out their site or following them on Twitter @AfricaCheck to keep yourself updated. Definitely have a look at their Guide: How to stop falling for fake news
for tips on verification and an important list of sites they’ve identified as known fake South African news platforms.
Something just as insidious as fake news stories is the phenomenon of fake job adverts. Fake job adverts often boast unrealistically high salaries, ask for cash upfront and use free e-mail addresses. While this is not done for advertising revenue, it can often lead to even more tragic results, as people can be tricked out of their money or confidential information when already under financial strain. This blog post on How to Identify a Fake Job Ad
provides more information. Hackers and hotspots
In South Africa, where mobile data is known to be expensive, public free Wi-Fi hotspots are both convenient and necessary. The problem is that, because public Wi-Fi is free, it’s accessible to everyone, including hackers. With students increasingly studying online and given South Africa’s largely gentrified internet
– which increases reliance on public free Wi-Fi hotspots – it’s vital that we become smarter when it comes to how we access and utilise the internet.
Public Wi-Fi often poses cyber security threats because it makes it easier for hackers to access your device and infect it with malware “which will give them complete control over it”.[Source]
Apart from hackers on legitimate public Wi-Fi hotspots (cafés, airports, etc.), certain hotspots can themselves be fake or malicious, but have a similar name to a legitimate public hotspot.
According to Blogtrepreneur
, there are various ways to stay hidden while using public Wi-Fi. Your options include a VPN (Virtual Private Network) proxy, which keeps your IP address hidden while you use public Wi-Fi. This is a worthwhile option if you are dependent on public Wi-Fi, particularly to access your personal online accounts. Another two options are to enable your firewall if you haven’t already and to disable file sharing. On Windows, you can do this by selecting “public network” when connecting to public Wi-Fi and “Windows will automatically turn all kinds of sharing off”.[Source]
As a rule of thumb, don’t connect to Wi-Fi hotspots you don’t recognise and, if you are a frequent public Wi-Fi user, consider the above precautionary measures to protect yourself from cyber criminals. Phishing and catfishing
Phishing scams often abound in unsolicited e-mail links and can sometimes just pop up on your screen. Do not click on these. If you do and you’re still unsure, the easiest way to spot a phishing scam is to “[double check the URL of the website the link takes you to”.[Source]
Phishing scams have gotten much slicker these days and it’s no longer always as obvious as the classic “You’re our 1000th user and have won $1 000 000!!!” pop-up.
Learn to tell the difference between a legitimate site and a phishing scam by taking this phishing quiz
by Cisco Umbrella blog
. According to this quiz, some warning signs include forged URLs that appear similar to genuine URLs, slightly off design elements such as poor image resolution and imitation logos, URLs that are blatantly different from the name of the site, “scare tactics”[Source]
that threaten to delete your account and the use of IP addresses as a URL domain name.
Lastly, beware of the catfish. These are individuals pretending to be someone else using false pictures and/or life stories. Catfish generally play in online dating spaces and social media, but they exist across most online platforms.
There are more general tips too, like updating your antivirus software and apps, and being careful about which flash drives, hard drives and mobile phones you plug into your computer. Remember to use various complex passwords with symbols and numbers and don’t keep them in obvious places.
Malware is an unfortunate reality today. So put some tape over your webcam. Just kidding. Not really – I’d still use the tape.
#phishing #catfishing #clickbait #hackers #fakenews #identitytheft #cybersecurity