CYBERCRIME: ‘Vile and vicious’ crooks prey on human error

Dr Tim Owen
Dr Tim Owen
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Human beings make mistakes and cyber criminals lurk online waiting for people to make them.

Dr Tim Owen, director of the University of Central Lancashire’s Cybercrime Research Unit, says: “We all make mistakes and there are some nasty, vile and vicious people out there who are waiting for people to make a mistake and are preying on human error.

“These cyber criminals are exceptionally skilled but we often play into their hands and make it easier for them by using outdated technology and opening e-mails we shouldn’t.”

The university cyber expert admits no one is immune and has even he fallen victim to online culprits himself.

“I forgot to log out of my Amazon account and as a result, someone else hacked into it and bought a large amount of garden furniture in my name.”

Zain Javed, from cyber security firm Xyone, warns one of the biggest problems is when people press ‘ignore’ or ‘postpone’ when their mobile phone or computer tells them they have updates to install.

He explains: “The biggest problem is that when phones have apps, many updates are needed and a lot of people press ignore when they are prompted to install updates.

“However, a lot of the time, it is actually updating security they are bypassing.

“An update is just a simple thing but bypassing it can have a huge impact.“A lot of IT personnel think ‘why update something that isn’t broken?’ and hackers are taking advantage of this.

“The biggest weakness in an organisation’s setup is the human beings.

“You can spend millions of pounds on the best firewall or safety features but if a human leaves the door open or clicks a link they weren’t meant to, it is all futile.

“Cyber criminals are constantly looking for people’s weaknesses and looking to prey on their mistakes.”

Dr Tim Owen adds: “People should never under-estimate cyber criminals and no system is infallible.

“The cyber attack on the NHS shows the potential is sky high and we all need to play a part in policing our behaviour on the Internet.

“Do not rely on your PC - have a backup and keep things on a hard drive and memory stick.

“If you get a ransomware attack, detach all outputs to your PC and stop all links to it as that’s how it spreads.

“Do not pay a penny of ransom money - report it to Action Fraud.”