National cybercrimes are on rise – best tips to protect yourself

6 min read
Digvijay Singh

National cybercrime is a growing problem in India and around the world.

59% of adults in India became victims of cybercrime between February 2020 and February 2021.

Person with laptop in cafe

As per the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report, seven in 10 Indian adults believe that remote work has made it much easier for hackers and cybercriminals to take advantage of people.

That same survey revealed that 52% of adults have no idea how to protect themselves from cybercrime.

This type of crime involves a theft, nuisance, destruction, or fraud perpetrated by a person with an intent to cause harm to other people or organizations.

Cybercrime could be:

  • A hacker getting into your bank’s internet banking portal and transferring money from your account to theirs
  • An email phishing scam that tries to get you to give up personal information such as banking details

Cybercrimes in India have increased substantially over the past few years due to a lack of awareness among people about how they can protect themselves from such crimes.

Both individuals and businesses are equally affected by national cybercrimes.

Recently in May 2021, Air India had suffered a cyberattack where the personal details of about 4.5 million customers around the world were stolen, including passport, birth dates, names, and ticket information.

After the data breach, Air India was sued for Rs 30 lakh.

Different types of cyber crimes

Cybercriminals use techniques such as malware (malicious software) and social engineering (tricking people into giving up their passwords) to steal information.

Below is the brief of some of the most popular types of cybercrimes:

  • Phishing: In phishing, fraudsters send emails promising prizes or threatening an account suspension unless the recipient takes action quickly. Readers are requested to click on a link to sort things out. Instead of winning a gift, they get their identities stolen or their computers infected with viruses.
  • Identity theft: Identity theft involves stealing personal information for fraudulent purposes. Cybercriminals can attack individuals by breaking into corporate systems and stealing databases of sensitive information, as with the Air India attack.
  • Ransomware: In ransomware attacks, cybercriminals break into the business database to extract or delete files so the organization can’t access the information. The attackers then extort payments (usually in cryptocurrency) in exchange for returning or unlocking compromised data.
  • Direct denial of service (DDoS): In DDoS, attackers flood a service or computer network with requests. DoS overwhelms the website’s servers, causing them to crash and take the site offline.
  • Cyberstalking: In this case, a stalker tracks the victim online, steals information from online sources, and communicates through digital channels, harassing and threatening the victim. Some cyberstalkers use spyware to gain access to webcams and digital speakers for terrorising their victims.

Let’s discuss some ways through which we can protect ourselves from national cybercrimes.

How individuals can protect themselves from cyber crimes

Here are some basic tips to help you protect yourself and your family from cybercrime:

1. Use strong passwords

Bitwarden home page

A strong password uses a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters that aren't based on a personal name or fact about you (such as your birthday) and isn't something that can be easily guessed.

For example, "D2fb11s@" is not as secure as "P4y*um-kJgx+."  A passphrase is even better, as it’s easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess. Learn more about how to create a strong password here.

Pro tip: Free password managers like Bitwarden can create complex passwords for you, then insert them when you need to log into one of your accounts.

2. Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi connections

If you are using public Wi-Fi networks at coffee shops or airports, make sure to only access websites protected by SSL Certificates. You can identify safe websites by looking at the URL in your browser bar. If it starts with https:// it’s protected. If it starts with http:// (no “s”) it is not safe.

Also, avoid sending sensitive information (anything you wouldn’t want a hacker to see) over these networks.

3. Do not share financial information with strangers

The most common method of getting credit card information for fraud is through emails that look as though they are from legitimate companies like banks, other financial institutions or government agencies.

These emails may ask you to update your personal information, such as your username and password.

Some phishing emails will ask you to enter your credit card number, CVV code, address, and phone number to receive a refund on a purchase made through that company's site.

If you receive an email asking for this information, you must verify the sender (source) before sharing any confidential information.

4. Use an updated antivirus software

Keep your antivirus software up-to-date on all your devices and change your passwords regularly, especially if you suspect that your account has been compromised.

5. Data backup

It's also a good idea to back up your important files so even if you suffer a data loss through theft or corruption, you will at least still have your information.

Related: A complete security solution from GoDaddy

How businesses can protect themselves from cyber crimes

Here are some tips to help you protect your business from national cybercrime:

Enforce the use of a strong password policy across the company

Computer screen with login fields

Businesses cannot afford to a single weak link in their network. Hackers use this weak link to infiltrate secure systems and steal confidential data.

A strong password contains letters and numbers, is at least sixteen characters long, and includes punctuation marks or symbols to make it more difficult for hackers to crack.

Also, encourage the employees to change their passwords regularly and not share passwords with anyone.

2. Organize training to educate employees

Conduct training for employees and make them aware of cyber crimes like phishing attacks. Training can help the employees better understand different types of cyber crimes and how to protect themselves and critical business systems.

3. Two-factor authentication

Use an email service with two-factor authentication enabled by default. (This means that if somebody tries to log into an account, they will get prompted for an additional code that they won’t have.)

Two-factor authentication can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to phishing scams where criminals send emails that try to trick workers into giving up sensitive information.

4. Use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

Enable your employees to use VPNs when connected remotely via public Wi-Fi networks such as hotels/airports etc., especially when using internal corporate applications.

Related: How to install network firewall security

Don’t let national cybercrime affect you

National cybercrime is a growing threat and unfortunately it's not likely to go away anytime soon.

We can reduce the risk by being aware of how these hackers operate, their motives, and how they want to attack us.

The internet has made our lives so much easier. However, it also poses some serious threats if we don't take precautions while surfing online or downloading files from unknown sources.