The dangers of going online

A senior member of the Queensland Police Service has warned aged care professionals that they too are at risk of falling victim to cybercrime and urged netsurfers to exercise due caution when using the web.

Above: Detective Superintendent Brian Hay speaks at ACQ 2012

By Yasmin Noone

Aged care providers and older people must stop believing everything they read on the worldwide web, start to question their own online activities and be aware of the increasing threat that is cybercrime, a senior member of the Queensland Police Service (QPS) said. 

Cybercrime expert, Detective Superintendent Brian Hay, warned a crowd of sector-wide professionals about the unknown dangers associated with using the internet and urged caution, at the Aged Care Queensland State Conference on the Gold Coast last week.

Tapping into around 30 years experience as a police officer and more than seven years working in the area of fraud and corporate crime, Supt Hay stressed that everyone who uses the internet is at risk of either having their identity stolen or falling prey to cybertheft.

“We have a natural propensity to believe what we read,” Supt Hay said.

“[But], can we trust the internet? I don’t think so.

“…Your personal information is in places [on the internet] that are beyond your control…

“If you are connected to the internet you’re already compromised. There’s no such thing as absolute security.”

Supt Hay detailed the scale of online criminal activity, stating that well over 40 per cent of the top 100 Google sites are considered malicious, while thousands of criminal vendors selling illegal bank accounts, stolen identities and ATM scanners operate online.

They set up fake, email addresses and phone numbers which are all displayed on professionally designed websites, and advertise on legitimate sites to appear honest.

In 2011, there were around 26 million new strains of malicious software “malware” detected; it is estimated that around 2 million malicious websites become active every month; while Australia’s RSA CyberCrime Intelligence Service deals with 7,300 new online threats daily.

Supt Hay said Australia is a “victim-based country” posing the biggest challenge in law enforcement in our history.

This is because around 80 per cent of Australians are currently online compared with the world average of 23 per cent. About eight per cent of Nigeria’s population – 160 million people – are online while only 14 per cent of China’s 1.3 billion residents are active on the internet. China, he said, also has 40 000 internet hackers.

Supt Hay then asked the audience to consider how attractive the activities of Australian net-users would be to cybercriminals, especially “when you think we are just a little island, connected to the internet and we are considered to be wealthy”.

“Most cyber crime goes unreported.

“Most cyber criminals are overseas so they will never get caught.”

Be aware and be cautious

Supt Hay stressed that individuals, especially older people who may appear vulnerable to cybercriminals, should not automatically put their faith in the internet.

Unlike face-to-face contact, he said, the internet is absent of many sensory experiences – there are no facial expressions to be seen, no eyes to gaze into and no hand gestures to evaluate.

With face-to-face contact, the senses seem to kick in causing alarm bells to ring but going “online denies all that”.

“Around 80 per cent of all business is [now] online.

“Seniors represent the greatest growing demographic [going online]

“They also hold the most wealth.

“…I will never say the internet can be safe but I will say it can be safer.”

The best way to avoid being a victim of online criminal activity is to be aware that it is rampant, careful to place total trust in the validity of internet sources, and more cautious with providing personal details online.

He advised using a nickname instead of a full name on Facebook. Companies and organisations should also look to invest in data protection technology and antivirus software.

Older people and staff should also be more careful in providing personal details online, especially on dating and social media sites.

“We [also] need to change the culture and the way we work with the internet…. which is a very slow thing.

“We have to start questioning the internet. Do not believe everything you read.”

Tags: acq, atm-scanners, brian-hay, crime, cyber, cybercrime, cybertheft, malware, police, qls, websites,

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