Cyber Criminals, Phishing E-mails and Passwords

Computer scams perpetrated by cyber-criminals cost Britain approximately £27billion each year. This figure could be significantly reduced if individual users were more careful with phishing e-mails and the manner in which the use passwords.

Phishing e-mails - One of the easiest ways for criminals to infect a user's computer with ad-, mal- or spy-ware is to lure them into clicking on links or open attachments sent to them by e-mail. While some of these attacks can be fairly easily spotted due to bad spelling, poor grammar and the fact that they are of no real interest to the user. Others, however, are far more sophisticated than this.

Thanks to social media networks, cyber criminals are able to profile intended targets in detail. By finding out what an individual or a group of people are interested in, the people they 'hang out with' and the sort of thing they share on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, these criminals are able to send personalised messages crafted to rouse the recipients' interest.

Such targeted attacks and even some well-executed mass mailing attacks can be difficult to distinguish from genuine e-mails. The golden rule is therefore never, ever to click on links or open any type of attachment unless you expect them or know exactly where they have come from.

Passwords - Another huge mistake made by many Internet users is to have the same simple password for every e-mail or other accounts they have online. Simple passwords can be cracked fairly easily by hackers, especially if personal details like birthdays, names of pets or family members are used.

Having a single password for everything means that once the it has been cracked, this password provides access to every bit of the user's personal information, making identity and financial theft a piece of cake for the perpetrator.

In this case, the golden rule is to have separate, complex passwords for each of your accounts. E-mail passwords in particular represent a clear and present danger, as e-mail addresses can often be used to reset passwords on other online accounts. Once hacked into, an e-mail account subsequently gives hackers access to every one of a user's other accounts.

Ideally, they should be in no way related to you, your interests or your family and contain a minimum of 8 to 12 characters - including letters (both upper and lower case), numbers and special symbols. If you have difficulties remembering them all, keep them written down somewhere safe.

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