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Rediff.com  » Business » Cyber crime: A 10-step safety guide

Cyber crime: A 10-step safety guide

May 12, 2005 13:49 IST

Cyber crime is here to stay. And it is causing havoc by each passing day.

Consider this:

  • The PC revolution and the Internet boom in India have introduced new elements to cyber crime.
  • Elements that make cyber crime one of the most dangerous issues facing modern society.
  • Children and innocent netizens are now being subject to unprecedented barrage of innovative cyber attacks: rising number of phishing attacks. According to Anti-Phishing Working Group statistics, approximately 5% of users fall prey to phishing scams.
  • Spam, viruses, worms and other malicious code account for global losses of several billion dollars.

But not all is lost. You can cover yourself against more than 80% of all causes of information security breaches using the following 10 simple steps:

1. Install the latest antivirus software on your computer and never ever turn it (antivirus) off, install a personal firewall and spyware checker (all are available for free). To find them just Google using the keywords 'antivirus' & 'free'.

2. Never download or open attachments, whose source you are not certain about. Even if the source is trusted, see if the content is relevant, if not don't open attachment.

Create another e-mail ID which you use exclusively for subscription to sites. That will prevent spam from coming to your main ID.

Some accounts like Yahoo allow you to create topic specific e-mail IDs that you can delink.

3. Avoid checking mail or using credit card details online in cyber cafes. It is next to impossible to be sure that this is safe. Even reputed café's such as those at international airports and 5-star hotels been have known to be key-logged.

As a matter of fact, open an additional debit card with a limit if you do want to transact online. Even in the worst-case scenario, your damages will then be limited.

4. Do not give away your residence or cell number. Be especially careful when you are filling in contest forms, coupons, free gift vouchers, et cetera.

More often than not these are gimmicks to obtain your personal details. Don't believe it when they say the data will not be given to others -- it most certainly will be.

Don't print these numbers on your visiting card.

5. Get into the habit of destroying documentation regarding credit cards, such as receipts, bills, invoices or any documents that contain personal details.

6. If you are using broadband or working from home, ensure that your PC is hardened professionally. This can also be done by yourself if you follow the next step.

7. Information is a reality of modern life. Just like health or transport or communication is. The point is that you need to know something about it, even if it is just some basics.

Read about information security breaches by subscribing to some newsletters. In the case of many breaches the only defense is knowledge.

For instance, no technology could have prevented the phishing attack (wherein victims got mails seemingly from legitimate banks asking them to confirm their passwords and IDs).

8. Use two different passwords. One for mail, work and other important access, and the other for routine purposes such as subscribing to sites, etc. But remember to switch between them when you start doing transactions after mere browsing.

9. Create a difficult-to-guess password by taking the first alphabet from each word of a phrase. For instance a password like 1at*eomc is constructed using a phrase 'I am the star employee of my company.'

10. Educate your children about the dangers of cyber crime. Children with their unbound curiosity and unmonitored access are the single most common victims of cyber crime apart from the enterprises.

Ensure that the home PC is kept in a common place so that you can monitor what is going on.

The author is the CEO of Mahindra Special Services Group, a company focussed on providing enterprise-derisking solutions to organisations worldwide. He is an information security veteran with over 18 years of consulting experience.

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Captain Raghu Raman