4 Ways Cybercrime Takes Place and How You Can Protect Yourself!
If you associate CYBERCRIME with evil ‘black hat’ hackers who steal data from corporations or governments while hiding behind high-tech gizmos and complicated computer code – THINK AGAIN!
It’s true that many cyber criminals do target large companies and governments to steal their data for sabotage, corporate espionage or blackmail. However, the Average Joe cyber criminal is much closer to you than you might have realised. He might be in YOUR computer or mobile device while you remain blissfully unaware of the chaos he is unleashing with his evil machinations.
Here are 4 common ways cyber crime takes place. Arm yourself with this knowledge so you can protect yourself – and your devices – better.
#1: Email phishing
If you are a real human being and not a bot, drone or Alexa, chances are you have at least one email address (Most people have at least 2-3. The writer of this article has 8!)
With great power comes great responsibility and with lots of email comes – you guessed it – SPAM!
How many unknown senders have sent you emails promising you everything from no-strings-attached piles of money and Saturday night dates to free trips to Thailand and even unicorns and rainbows? Hundreds? Thousands? Many of these emails that you probably think of as just minor annoyances are actually a form of cybercrime known as PHISHING.
Phishing is a type of ‘social engineering’ where a sender poses as a legitimate institution to lure recipients into revealing sensitive information such as bank account passwords, credit card CVV codes, one time passwords, etc. This information – that YOU yourself provided to the criminal – is then used by them to access your accounts. It can result in financial loss and even identity theft.
How to protect yourself from EMAIL PHISHING:
Pay attention to the sender’s email address.
Do you recognise it? Is it from someone your normally communicate with? Does it appear genuine? Take a second look! email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org? Can you spot the difference? Delete!
Don’t click on hyperlinks unless you’re sure they’re not fake
Hover your mouse over any hyperlinks in the message. Is the hyperlink text different from the link-to address? Is the spelling similar to but not the same as a known website? E.g. icicibank.com versus icicbank.com? RED FLAGS!
Check the subject line and attachment name
Is the email subject line irrelevant to the body, unexpected or plain gibberish? Does the attachment make no sense in relation to the message? Is it in a format you don’t recognise? Don’t open it! Call the bank for confirmation if you’re not sure.
Is the email badly written or formatted? Is the sender asking you for something – money, a commitment to join a cult, your remaining kidney? Is the tone threatening or promising dire consequences (“act now or your account will get suspended!”)? Don’t open it!
To know more about phishing and how you can keep yourself safe, check out this great guide on phishing.org.
#2: Visiting the ‘wrong’ website
The Internet is a vast network of sites and mini-worlds that would be totally amazing if it weren’t for the dangers. Visiting a wrong or shady website can have consequences you might never have imagined.
Your device can get infected with malware (malicious software) that hides itself in the computer and steals information on the sly. It can also give the hacker access to your computer and all the files in it. So if any of your files are unprotected – particularly sensitive ones containing financial or other personal data – you leave yourself vulnerable to everything from theft to blackmail.
How to protect yourself from MALWARE:
Don’t visit sites you’re not sure about.
Install reliable anti-malware and anti-virus software on your device. Make sure both are updated regularly
Don’t click on links within emails from unknown senders
Password-protect your files. Keep the password in a safe place (NOT on your computer!)
Use a pop-up blocker software or browser extension
Install a firewall
Back up your computer regularly to the cloud
And most importantly – educate yourself and learn about the risks!
#3: Logic bomb viruses
Some viruses are created using a ‘Logic Bomb’.
In simple terms, a logic bomb is a piece of code inserted into a software (or operating system) that triggers a malicious attack after a certain amount of time has passed or when specific pre-set conditions are met. A logic bomb can corrupt or alter data, reformat a hard drive and even delete important files.
How to protect yourself from LOGIC BOMBS:
Use strong passwords on websites
especially if you conduct financial transactions through them. These would include banks and eCommerce websites. Change passwords regularly and DON’T SHARE THEM WITH ANYONE.
Verify that any data you send is encrypted
This is not as difficult as you might think. To verify that any data you are sending over the Internet is secure, look for the lock icon next to the address bar. Also check if the URL begins with HTTPS rather than HTTP. All banks’ URLs begin with HTTPS. If your bank’s URL is missing the S, it is either a fake site or your bank is living in the dark ages. Both are bad news – for YOU.
Enable two-factor authentication
This gives you additional protection by mandating an additional step (e.g. a phone OTP) in verifying your login on a site. If someone had your password, say to your email account, but did not have your phone, they will not be able to access your account.
Keep all software up to date
Cyber criminals are getting smarter but it is your responsibility to stay ahead of them. Make sure that your operating system is always updated and still supported by the developer. For example, Microsoft Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft so you shouldn’t be using it.
Where are you logging in from? Be cautious!
Do not log into sites that require you to provide a password from open Wi-Fi networks in malls, hotels, airports and cyber cafés. They may be free to use but they do come with a cost!
#4: DoS Attack
A ‘Denial of Service’ attack refers to making a particular site unavailable to people trying to access it.
If a site is offering a certain service, say tickets to the final match of a famous Indian cricketer, a DoS attacker will ping the server by sending massive amounts of traffic to the site. After some time, the site becomes inoperable and malfunctions temporarily. In some cases, it may crash and remain unavailable for several hours. This can frustrate the users trying to reach the site and have a negative effect on the site’s reputation and business relationships.
Most DoS attacks do not breach a company’s network but overwhelm it with traffic. Nevertheless, they remain lucrative for cyber criminals who launch them to blackmail businesses into paying them huge amounts of money as ransom.
How to protect yourself from a DOS ATTACK:
If you have a business website, you may not always be able to defend yourself against a sophisticated attack launched by a determined adversary. However, there are things you can do to raise your level of protection:
Use ‘SYN cookies’ either in the server operating system or in a network security device at the network edge such as the Cisco Guard
Deploy a reverse proxy or multiple reverse proxies spread across multiple hosting locations
Build ‘redundancy’ into your infrastructure with a good load balancing system to distribute traffic between multiple data centres
Deploy anti-DoS hardware and software modules such as network and web application firewalls
Deploy a DDoS (Distributed DoS) protection appliance that sits in front of your network firewall and is designed to stop an attack before it can take effect
3 Ways to Boost Your Business Credit Score
“My business credit score is very low, so lenders keep refusing to give me credit.”
“How can I increase my credit score?”
“How can I maintain a high credit score?”
Manage Your Debt
Maintain Low Credit Balances
Keep Old Credit Accounts
If you run a business, at some point, you will need credit (aka loans). And to get this credit, you will need a healthy credit score. A good credit score makes it easier to get a business loan from a bank or a Non-banking Financial Company (NBFC). To know your credit score, you need to get a Credit Information Report (CIR). In India, many credit bureaus provide CIRs, including TransUnion CIBIL, CRISIL, Experian, and Equifax.
A credit score is a three-digit number calculated based on the information on your CIR, such as your credit and payment history, type of previous borrowings, credit utilisation history, etc. If you apply for any kind of business loan, the prospective lender would first check your credit score before deciding whether to sanction the loan (also known as extending credit) to you.
The higher your credit score, the more financially healthy your business is considered, and the more likely you are to successfully get the loans you need. That’s why it’s important to have – and maintain –a high credit score.
Here are 3 ways to boost your credit score.
1. Manage Your Debt
All businesses have some kind of liabilities on their balance sheets. In fact, it’s impossible to run a business without one or more liabilities. Your company may have liabilities such as accounts payable, notes payable, or bank debt.
If you want to maintain a good credit score and increase the chances that you will get loans in future (and you will need them!), you must manage your current liabilities. Your CIR will list all your liabilities including:
• Credit lines
• Term loans
• Any secured or unsecured loans
• Credit card balances
Now ask yourself:
i. Are you paying off these liabilities/debts on time?
ii. Are you maintaining a good credit repayment history?
iii. Are you taking on – or applying for – more loans without repaying the previous ones?
If you said Yes to #1 and #2 and No to #3 – you’re in a good position to improve your credit score and get future loans. If not, you must review your current debts and take action to repay them (or at least manage the repayment process) as soon as possible.
All lenders are wary of business borrowers who are highly indebted, or have a patchy credit repayment history. So before applying for a new loan, make sure you manage these aspects, and first boost your credit score.
2. Maintain Low Credit Balances
To maintain a high credit score, your credit balance should be low. In general, credit utilisation of 30% can help you increase your credit-worthiness and credit score. Per this calculation, if you have a credit line of Rs. 1 crores, you should have utilised a maximum credit of Rs. 10 lakhs.
Any amount you repay from this utilised amount will reflect positively on your credit score. However, if you withdraw more than 30% from your credit line, your credit score will start to fall. The more you withdraw, the more the score will fall.
Technically, you can withdraw more than 30% if your business is in need of funds. But to maintain a high credit score, you should try not to go above the 30% limit. For this, it’s crucial to keep an eye on your finances, cash flows, inventories, and anything else that might create a need to borrow more funds on credit.
Also, the 30% limit is not set in stone. Different credit bureaus use different credit utilisation figures. For some companies, up to 50% credit utilisation is acceptable (“green”). Utilisation above this amount gets flagged in different colours, indicating the falling credit-worthiness (and therefore a falling credit score) of a potential borrower. Check the credit utilisation of the credit bureau who prepares your CIR, and plan accordingly.
3. Keep Old Credit Accounts
Some businesses do a periodic review of their credit accounts, and cancel old accounts if they are no longer “required”. You should refrain from doing this if you want to maintain a high credit score.
All lenders prefer to lend to borrowers who can show a long credit history. So if in the past, you have borrowed funds on credit and repaid them in full and on time, it will show up on your CIR. The longer the history, the more comprehensive and favourable the view of your credit-worthiness and debt repayment capability. A credit account that’s at least a few years old is a good proxy for the stability and financial worthiness of your business. It also shows that your lenders, and even vendors, suppliers, and other third parties, trust you and your company. All of this translates into a healthy credit score.
Many Indian companies struggle to get the credit they need to expand the business into new markets, product lines, or geographies. One of the main reasons for this is a poor credit score. It’s vital to maintain a healthy credit score if you want to increase your company’s chances of successfully borrowing funds in future to help your company expand, scale, and grow. To boost your credit score and credit-worthiness, make sure you follow the 3 strategies explained in this article.
What did you think about this article? Share your thoughts!
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