How to stay safe online

In the first week of June, Bengaluru-based make-up artist Dipthi Aashok opened a video link on Facebook, “What my sex”, that a friend had posted on her timeline. Before she knew it, the video had been posted on her friends’ timelines. “I was shocked,” says the 37-year-old, “the video didn’t even open and I was getting angry messages from my friends on what kind of stuff I’d posted on their timeline.”

She didn’t even realize that her Facebook account had been hacked. Aashok was a victim of phishing.

Phishing and spamming are both malicious activities. Phishing’s main task is to steal a person’s sensitive data (such as password, account login authentication, etc.), while spamming is designed to entice a user to fall for a trap (such as the “Mr XYZ has left you a will, please share your bank account details” routine) or just bombard you with offers.

According to software security firm Symantec Corp’s “Internet Security Threat Report 2014”, India’s growing social media population provides a ready base for cyber criminals, making it the second most targeted country in the world for social media scams. “People voluntarily and unwittingly share enticing videos, stories, pictures and offers in order to gain access to a sensational video or enter a lottery, without realizing that these could include links to malicious or affiliate sites,” says Ritesh Chopra, country manager (India), Norton by Symantec.

“Fake notifications from Facebook and other social networks, the promise of explicit photographs attached to messages, Valentine’s Day discounts, news about Ukraine, a health scare, the spammers try it all to get you to click,” says Altaf Halde, managing director (South Asia), Kaspersky Lab, a software security group with a presence in 200 countries. Once you do click, the malware enters your computer or phone, and either steals all your document files, encrypting them, or tries to multiply by making copies of itself and sending it to all your contacts. According to Kaspersky Lab’s May report, “IT Threat Evolution Report For Q1 Of 2015”, which analysed the spam and phishing threats landscape, India ranked among the top 10 spam-recipient countries. The list includes Russia, Uzbekistan, Germany and the UK. Continue reading “How to stay safe online”