In today’s digital age, cybersecurity is a growing concern for both individuals and organisations. Phishing attacks and ransomware are on the rise, making it crucial to stay informed and take steps to protect our online presence.

Don Pillay, a cybersecurity specialist, explained that phishing is a homophone of the word “fishing.” He described it as hackers acting as fishermen, trying to lure us—the fish—with deceptive messages and links. These attackers pretend to be from trusted sources to trick us into providing sensitive information.

The biggest concern regarding online security and phishing attacks is the potential breach of personal and financial information. “These cyber criminals are part of very organised crime syndicates,” Don warned. Once they have access to your data, they can cause significant harm.

The Role of Cryptocurrency in Cybercrime

Cybercriminals use Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for illegal activities. Don explained a typical scenario where a phishing email leads to a fake banking site, tricking users into entering their details. This information is then used by hackers to install malware or ransomware on the victim’s computer.

At that point, the attack vector changes from a phishing scam to a ransomware attack,” Don said. The malicious software encrypts the victim’s data, and a message demands a ransom in Bitcoin to decrypt it. Bitcoin’s anonymity makes it a preferred currency for these criminals.

Common Phishing Scams and How to Avoid Them

Don highlighted several common phishing scams, including email phishing and invoice scams targeting businesses. “One of the red flags to look out for is a strange-looking email address,” Don noted. For example, an email from a bank might look legitimate, but if the sender’s email address is something unusual like “[email protected],” it’s definitely fishy.

Hackers might call pretending to be from a legitimate organisation and ask for information that helps them gain access to your accounts. “It’s important never to give details of a security-minded nature to someone who calls you,” Don advised. Instead, he recommended contacting the organisation directly to verify the request.

He also stressed the importance of checking the URLs of websites before entering any information and avoiding clicking on suspicious links. “Always have a policy in place for businesses to verify banking details before making payments,” Don suggested. This can help prevent falling victim to invoice scams.

Protecting Personal Information

To protect personal information, Don emphasised the need for security appliances like antivirus software on your devices. He also advised enabling two-factor authentication and regularly backing up your data. “Backup, backup, and dare I say it again, backup,” he stressed. This can save you from losing valuable data if your device is compromised.

If you suspect a phishing attempt or cybercrime, Don recommended reporting it to your local police station and your bank. “It’s also important to find a reputable IT security person to help clean out your device,” he added.

Staying informed and cautious is key to protecting ourselves from cyber threats. By following Don Pillay’s advice, we can better safeguard our online presence and avoid falling victim to phishing attacks and other cybercrimes. Remember, always verify the source, protect your data, and backup regularly.

Listen to the full conversation on Table Talk below!