Internet Cybersafety

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|  By Adrian Kumic  |

With so much to see and do on the Internet, it is easy to neglect one of the most important aspects of traversing the World Wide Web – cybersafety. While most sites and emails purport to be legitimate, how can users be sure?

In recent years, online crime has become the biggest growth industry in the world, and this trend is expected to continue. It has been estimated that the cost to the global community will be in excess of $2 trillion by 2019 and this is only in relation to what is detected and reported. In 2015 alone, there were over 1.5 million cyberattacks, which breaks down to over 4,000 cyberattacks every day.

These attacks include ‘phishing’ (emails pretending to be from trusted companies in order to collect personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers), ransomware (a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid) and virus infection (software designed to corrupt data on a computer).

Whilst the use of various antivirus and malware detection programs should be regarded as a bare minimum in order to protect users online, nothing beats learning about and being aware of the threats that are lurking out there in cyberspace.

The United States Air Force Association developed a program called CyberPatriot, which includes a number of smaller programs designed to inspire students towards careers in cybersecurity, or other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

One of these programs is called the Elementary School Cyber Education Initiative, which was designed to:

• engage students in learning about careers in cybersecurity and other STEM disciplines

• help students understand the importance of cybersecurity

• introduce students to cybersecurity principles

• equip students to better protect themselves on the Internet.

My two children, aged 12 and 15, have completed the Introduction to Cybersecurity Principles component of this program and in just a short time they were able to describe the dos and don’ts of cybersecurity, and what a virus, a Trojan and ‘worms’ are. This course also included the basic principles of who it was okay to share information with, and teaches ethics by using everyday scenarios not uncommon to the school environment.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have grown in popularity in recent years. Whilst these sites have made it so much easier to stay in touch with loved ones both near and far, they have also attracted the attention of cybercriminals. A majority of people using these social media platforms have been lulled into a false sense of security and carelessly post sensitive information about themselves – creating a virtual goldmine of information for cyber thieves, who often bait these users with disguised links to offers which are hard to distinguish from legitimate ones.

Though the Internet can be fraught with pitfalls and traps for the unwary, with a little bit of forethought and care, it can also be a fun and educational experience. It has definitely made the world a smaller but much more interesting place.

And remember – stay safe out there…

Adrian Kumic is an experienced computer forensic investigator working for the Australian Government.

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