Cybersecurity: The Red Flags and How To Protect Yourself From Them

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Throughout the entire month of January, The Fintech Times will be exploring every dimension of one of the industry’s most pressing topics: cybersecurity.

As part of today’s coverage into our mini-series of all things personal safety, we’ll be spotting the red flags and tell-tale signs that your cybersecurity has run astray, as well as facing some of the obstacles that companies and the general public both come up against.

Jonathan Smy, Director of SMY IT ServicesJonathan Smy

One of the more immediate difficulties to arise is this regard would be the obstacles of orcastrating an ever-remote workforce. When risks all sit under one roof and upon one overarching software system, they’re more easily manageable, as Jonathan Smy, Director of SMY IT Services explains: “Away from the protection of the office many take for granted, the almost overnight shift to working from home has opened up a new level of vulnerability to cyber attacks.

“There are no two ways about it – those working from home are at a much greater risk of a cyber attack than employees in the office. The pandemic may have seen conventional crime reduce, but it has seen online criminality rocket.”

As the organisational structure of businesses was reimagined, so too was the qaulity and style of cybercrime attacks, as Smy goes on to explain: “From phishing to ransomware, criminals have taken advantage of homeworkers, avoiding the strong corporate defence an office provides – with less secure home connections giving easier access to the company network and the valuable data it houses.

Simply clicking on the wrong link, responding to the wrong email or delaying a software update could have disastrous consequences.”

What are the red flags to watch out for?

Unrecognised emails – A familar giveaway to any occuring cyberattack is through dodgy and unfamilar email activity. This could take the form of emails you don’t remember sending or having any contact with. The figures from Atlas VPN point to frausters targetting business email adresses 60 per cent of the time,  whilsy Tessian found how employees’ inboxes were clogged up with 50 per cent malitious emails towards the end of last year. Like smoke to fire, dubious email activity is typcially one of the first signs you’ll see in the presence of an attack. Limited access to files – Scammers are likes bees to honey when it comes to the valuable contents of your files. If malicious practices are at work, it’s likely that you’ll experience difficulty in accessing, manipulating or editing your files, and if you see that one’s been mysteriously encrypted, you should contact your software provider as soon as possible. Slower-than-usual network speeds – Recent figures represent how 64 per cent of businesses experienced attacks through their network, which is why issues with network speed and accessibility often rise as red flags to compromised cybersecurity. This lack of network speed and efficiency is typically due to scammers running ilicit activites within the background of your computer, and hence why conneting to public WiFi is usually best avoided. Questionable pop-ups – In the increasingly consent-driven world of technology, pop-ups and messages asking for you to decide the impact of things like ‘cookies’ has become nothing out of the ordinary. Yet within this expected environment, the unexpected can strike, leading to increased vulnerabilities. This is expecially true when the pop-ups appear to be completely unrelated to the activity you’re pursuing on your device. Melicious pop-ups can act as both a gateway for criminals, and as a red flag to their presence. Complete loss of control – In the worst case scenario, a cyberattack will render your device completely useless. This could involve an inability to log in, evidence that your device is being controlled remotely, and will often incur messages demanding a ransom for your device and the information is stores.

How to stay safe online

For as many ways as there are to attack someone’s cybersecurity, there’s an equal number of precautions that can be taken in response. As email scams are becoming increasingly preventlent in frausters’ artilery, combatting this form of attack is a promising place to start.

Kate Baucherel, Technology ConsultantKate Baucherel

“A dodgy email link can be hard to spot,” explains Technology Consultant Kate Baucherel, “but the clues are generally there when you look. Did you expect someone to send you a link by email or text? If not, beware. Most companies now will not send links out unannounced. Is the link shortened, for instance as a bit.ly link? Anyone can set up a shortened link, and you don’t know where it’s going. Are there extra letters in the name, or substitutions such as capital I or number one instead of lower case L? When you look at the link, does it have the brand you expect in there, and is that immediately followed by .com or .co.uk in the URL? Are you being asked to do something quickly? The less time you are given to think, the more vulnerable you will be. Is the language what you expect? Are there spelling or grammatical errors, have you been addressed by name or as ‘Dear Customer’? Criminals are clever and the picking from fintech fraud are good. Never click if you are unsure. If you do click on a dodgy link, then either it will expose you to malware, or it will take you to a convincing fake site to input your details. If you are unsure, you can always contact the company’s customer support. They will always be happy to help you and they will be glad that you checked.”

James Bore, Director, Bores ConsultancyJames Bore

As James Bore, Director of Bores Consultancy details, attacks typically centre themselves around an emotional response, something that users should seek to recognise in order to avoid being drawn in: “The big one I always argue for is to watch for the emotional punch. The vast majority of attacks against a person build off an initial hook which is designed to trigger an emotional response, bypassing our normal rational thinking.

“This might be fear, as in the ‘your child is in jail and you need to pay bail’ scam, or excitement with the various ‘opportunities’ to get large sums of money, or anger (tapping into political outrage has become a popular attack method). If people teach themselves to react to those emotional punches by stepping away before replying, and ideally verifying the information through some other channel, it will prevent the vast majority of attacks.”

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