Online fraud more lucrative than the drug trade

By Staff Writer

Viruses, worms and Trojans might be the weapons of choice for cyber criminals, but new forms of fraud are emerging. Fraud that is more lucrative than the notorious drug trade.

Stieler van Heerden from Ukuphepha Consulting told the Southern African internal audit conference on Monday that the Russian mafia is now making more money from banking fraud than drug cartels are making from their illegal activities.

According to van Heerden, cyber fraud is a $1 trillion industry, with a survey of 50 multinationals in the US showing they are losing $5.9m a year each.

Code infections can send spam data to large organisations as well as internet businesses, while there are moves to encrypt GSM phone networks.

A major risk is the growth in usage of open source weapons like the Stuxnet virus that is freely available online for download.

"We have a lot of action, but not a lot of measurement to determine the relevance of the action," he said.

To really get to the bottom of it all, world data analysis is needed to help improve the situation.

In the meantime, though, staying safe when you are online and protecting your information is important.  Here are five things you can do to make sure you are protected against scammers:

1. Make sure your anti-virus and anti-spyware is up to date. Most anti-virus programs will automatically detect any spyware bots that sneak onto your computer and will tell you when you are heading to a malicious website.  Update these regularly and run scans at least once a week.

2. Don’t ever click a link from your bank, your credit card company or any other email that claims it needs to verify your details.  Scammers catch thousands of people through ‘phishing scams’. Ignore all emails that ask you for sensitive details like your credit card information, especially the CSV code (that’s the tiny three-digit code on the back of your credit card) and things like your online pin.

3. When doing online banking, check that the URL has an ‘s’ included at the end of the http segment of it. An URL that starts like this https:/  is usually more secure.

4. If an e-mail looks suspicious or you are not sure why you received it, get in touch with your bank or the organization it claims to be from. Rather make double sure instead of putting your money at risk.

5. Be aware of the cold call – some scammers still call people pretending to be from a bank. They will either ask for sensitive information over the phone or direct people to websites where sensitive information is captured. If you are feeling uneasy or unsure about a call asking you for personal information, don’t divulge anything. Banks won’t call you for this information, don’t fall for it.

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