By Andrew Tipp
You walk up to a stranger in the street. Open your purse or wallet and show them what’s inside. Take out a credit card and point out the account number, name and expiry date – and while you’re at it, you flip the card over and show them the three digit security code.
Let’s agree that trying that in a busy high street probably isn’t wise. So why would you do it online?
You’re thinking that no-one would do that willingly and knowingly, right?
Don’t make silly mistakes
Well, look no further than Twitter and you’ll find @NeedADebitCard – an account that urges the Twitterati to “please quit posting pictures of your debit cards, people”.
Each week @NeedADebitCard will retweet pictures that people have taken of their new bank cards and shared with their friends.
Some even helpfully hashtag the name of the bank or type of card… just to make it all that easier for people to find. Throw personalised bank cards into the equation – the ability to have an image of your choice on the card – and there’s even more reason people would want to show off what’s in their wallet, account details and all.
There’s no need for a criminal to even try to hack an account: it is information readily available in a public forum.
Get the security basics right
You see, online security is a question of hi-tech and low-tech.
On the one hand there are tech sophisticates with criminal intent who phish for personal data, hack accounts or seed viruses. The response to the hi-tech threat is simple enough. Ensure that you’re protecting your online activity by installing antivirus software and keep it updated.
But the low-tech crime preys on our all-too human frailties. Was it laziness or just lack of care that meant that over the last two years the top five most common passwords used online were:
- 1. password
- 2. 123456
- 3. 12345678
- 4. abc123
- 5. qwerty
Create a password that’s unique and change it regularly. There are even tools online that can spin a new password for you with a random combination of words and numbers.
Last year also saw a boom in “romance scams” in the UK where men and women were persuaded to part with cash or property or even smuggle drugs by people they had encountered online and fallen in love with – without ever having met face-to-face. It’s an online crime that preys on loneliness, secret desire or plain gullibility. By some estimates, 100 people a month fell prey to this kind of online honeytrap in the UK last year at an average cost to the victim of £12,600.
Use common sense
There’s an old maxim – caveat emptor or “buyer beware”. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
So there’s a simple defence against low-tech internet crime: try a little skepticism, put in a little more effort to keep your online activity safe and think before you click.