Identity theft is the unauthorised taking of a victim’s personal information and then using it to commit fraud. Personal information can be stolen online by a cyber-criminal — a fraudster — operating online.
Cyber-security is best described as the set of techniques that are put in place to protect the transfer of data across networks, computers and programs and to prevent or limit data from exploitation or unauthorised access.
A cyber-criminal is the person(s) involved with the malicious activities committed across computers and networks. Such examples include stealing information and data with the intention of selling it on for a profit.
With more of us online, each spending more time and exchanging more data than ever before, the potential to fall victim to cyber-crime is constantly on the rise, as the below facts demonstrate:
There has never been a better time to consider improving your online security!
Why do Cyber-criminals exist and who are they?
Cyber-criminals are no different to ‘typical’ criminals who commit burglary and petty theft.
Although cyber-crime is still relatively new, there is thought to be no fixed cyber-criminal profile. This is because there are multiple motivating reasons to commit the crime:
Money — Simply put, stealing details such as banking and personal information can allow cyber criminals to gain financially by using the stolen data themselves, or selling on the information to criminal gangs.
Emotion — Cyber-criminals can be led by deep-rooted emotion such as anger or rage. Examples of these criminals include revenge attacks against former employers or colleagues and are motivated by ‘pay-back’ or inflicting emotional torture on an individual or organisation.
Political/ Religious — A well-known example of this would be the link of Russia to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Any online crime that can cause tension or controversy is a useful tactic for these groups.
Fun — Whilst not typically associated with any of the previously mentioned, cyber-crime can seem like a challenge to the younger generation. They may attempt it to show off their skills to their peers without any realisation of the victims or consequences involved.
With so much of our everyday lives no revolving around technology, the number of accounts that require password and PIN’s is ever increasing.
Of all network intrusions, 63% come about due to compromised usernames and passwords. 
We all know that we should have a different alphanumeric password containing at least 10 characters, an upper and lower case as well as numbers and symbols for each account. But how many of us do?
Password managers are here to help.
Not only do they save your passwords, they generate each password with incredibly high security requirements. Once you have logged into your password manager, the details will be auto filled on websites as required.
To access all your passwords, your just need to remember one password. It is important to pick a secure password for this account. This is a great tool to see how good your current password is.
2 Factor Authenticator
Known as 2 factor authenticator or 2FA for short, this technique is best described as the step up from your usual username and password login details.
Whilst it still utilises your username and password, it also requires a piece of information you have handy to you at the same time, or simply “what you have AND what you know”.
An example of where this is commonly used is the humble bank card. When you pay for something in store or online, you require a pin or password, and also your bank card which is the piece of information you have on you at the moment in time.
With the rise of online transactions, companies such as apple, google and amazon take such security matters seriously and are both advocates of using 2FA.
On your amazon account for example, you can set up 2FA now. To complete your log-in, you require your current username/email and password and also a 6-digit security code. Upon attempting login, the 6-digit code is sent to your mobile number.
The use of SMS messages to deliver a security code is becoming more and more common as it verifies a genuine access to your account using 2 pieces of information.
2FA is incredibly simple to set up, and you probably use it without realising. It is rapidly becoming the norm for all online logins, and you should look to set it up where you see it is available.
Virtual Private Networking, more commonly known as VPN, is a popular internet security method which increases the security of both private and public networks, whether they are connected through broadband or internet hotspots.
All the traffic that passes through your VPN connection is secure and cannot, in theory, be intercepted by anyone else, making it the safest mainstream way to browse the web privately (but not always anonymously).
Whilst VPN is designed to be a private, secure connection, it has other advantages.
Potentially, VPN’s can be used to prevent the government and your internet service provider from viewing or accessing your internet browsing history. This has made is popular with people and organisations who are heavily involved with freedom of speech.
Public wireless hotspots that are free to use are also a target for hackers and criminals. By using a VPN when accessing the internet in a café or shopping centre, you can protect your identity and any information you share.
Surprisingly, VPN’s also have the potential to increase the speed of your private home internet connection. Sometimes, this prevents service providers from limiting your speed at peak times and can improve the quality of your streaming.
You may be aware of and use a VPN if you use a work laptop or mobile, however, they are not just limited to business use. Many companies now offer a personal VPN service to protect your identity and information when you.
Using a VPN is almost no additional effort to when you normally browse online. Whilst you won’t necessarily see the benefits, you will soon regret not using one should your identity get stolen.
There are many different VPN’s available on the market, which can be installed and used on both your phone and laptop. Any search engine will point you to the main providers, and reviews will show you which are the best available to you.
HTTP or HTTPS
HTTP – Hyper Text Transfer Protocol is the protocol used to transfer data, e.g. from a web server to a browser which then displays your image. The secure version of this is HTTPS with S indicating secure.
HTTP transfers data that is unencrypted. This means that anybody can see the data being transferred which can be stolen or misused.
HTTPS is the encrypted version of the protocol which transfers data. This is the gold standard for bank or online store websites where confidential information such as financials are exchanged. HTTPS is also a significantly faster way of transferring data, as demonstrated by this simple site.
To find out if the site you are on uses HTTP or HTTPS, look at the address bar and look for the letters before '://www".
When you are performing any transaction online, it is imperative that you look for the presence of HTTPS. You will be confident knowing that any information you send or receive is encrypted and secure and cannot be intercepted.
Websites that use HTTPS will also be able to demonstrate that they are a registered business and own their domain address.
Nobody likes spending time installing the latest update for the software they are using. But it needs doing for good reason.
Updates are free downloads which are available to provide the latest iteration of software, to rectify minor issues and add improvements. Think about when you update apps or software on your phone.
These are different from upgrades which are usually paid for and offers significant improvements or changes from one version to the next.
Although both are important, updates are what are important to pay attention to. They are responsible for preventing crashes and fixing vulnerabilities which may allow cyber criminals to gain unauthorised access.
Links you Click and Documents you Open
Whilst this is such an old trick by cyber criminals, it still exists because people still fall for it.
Do NOT open and links or files that you cannot trust 100%. Make sure that you know what the contents are, and you can trust who is supplying the data.
But be careful. If you get a sudden message out of the blue from somebody you can trust, double check with them that they sent it before opening. By all means, they could have been hacked themselves.
Apply this to any unsolicited emails/ texts/ whatsapp or similar messages you get.
If you receive any of the above from a company you use, such as a bank, always go to their website by typing the link on a browser yourself, and never through the link they supply. If it is legitimate, you should always have an additional message in your account.
Never assume that the details in unsolicited messages are correct.
These messages work by criminals requesting your details in the guise of being an employee of a business you use and also by forcing access to your computer/phone through the use of malware, keylogger or similar.
Always think twice about what you click on, and if you are unsure, avoid it and move on.
What to do if you become a victim
Realising that you have fallen victim to cyber-crime can not only be upsetting, but also embarrassing.
Most of the time, you may not realise immediately when the crime has occurred.
The most important thing to do, is to report your crime as soon as possible. The UK site for this is run by the Police and called Action Fraud.
This allows you to compile an online report which will be dealt with like any other crime. Online support information, live chat and a telephone helpline is all available.
The site states that this each form will take up to 20 minutes to complete, so it is best to fill it in as soon as possible to provide the best information.
Whilst you may know little about cyber-crime now, this will only change as more and more individuals and businesses fall victim to future attacks. More businesses and individuals will become victims to the crime.
Having good cyber-security is YOUR responsibility, and must continuously be considered. Cyber-criminals will continue to operate online, with more of them targeting victims with sophisticated and improved methods.
Personal data is very valuable and will remain a target for cyber-criminals to make money. This means that you should consider it highly confidential and do as much as you can to limit unwanted access.
If you are unfortunate to become a victim, we highly stress the importance of reporting it to Action Fraud and the Police. Although it may be embarrassing, telling others that how you became a victim can also warn others to the pitfalls and dangers.
Whilst we have mention 6 simple tips, they are by no means an exhaustive list. It is important to be aware of ongoing cyber-crime, and making sure you do everything to maintain great security.
Use the links to sites in the additional information below, or follow us on twitter to keep up to date with latest cyber-crime news and information.
Get Safe Online
Visa — Online Fraud
HTTP vs HTTPS
How Secure Is My Password
Victim Support — Staying Safe Online
Met Police — Cyberscams
Which Consumer Rights — Scams