Let’s do our homework on Scammers before we go back to school
School is just around the corner, and as we busy ourselves with buying textbooks, pens, erasers and a wealth of school supplies, cybercriminals are also busying themselves thinking of ways to take us to school through scams.
In several articles, we have stressed to the readers that first and foremost cybercriminals are out to target individuals through significant events, festivities, holidays, or whatever is popular online at the time. And for millions of families, the return to school in the fall is truly a momentous occasion.
To protect you online before the school year has begun, we have put together a series of some of the most common online scams that cybercriminals perpetrate on both students and parents, how they do it and how you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim.
Free WiFi Connections
Free WiFi Connection (housing)
Also known as WiFi “skimming.” It is a growing scam that is designed to target students with the promise of free Internet access at their place of residence while they are living away from home. In this scam, the perpetrator offers free WiFi Connection to students as part of their rental package. By doing this, the scammer is in full control the Internet connection, and are able to access all the data the student transmits. This includes passwords, credit card information, banking information.
Free WiFi Connection (library / coffee shop)
One of the most common types of cybercrime that takes place when a person uses a free WIFI signal is the Man-in-the-Middle Attack (MITM). As the name suggests, MITM is a type of scam where the scammer intercepts a transmission between two parties in order to steal passwords and other secure data. What makes this type of scam even more difficult to trace is that in most cases, the scammer will record the hijacked data in order to use it at a later date.
Man-in-the-Middle attacks are caused by the cybercriminal exploiting vulnerabilities within free WiFi networks, through malware or malicious tools like a “hotspot honeypot.”
How common are Free WiFi connection scams?
A recent survey suggests that nearly 70% of the hacking incidents occur when you connect to unsecured WiFi networks at coffee shops, restaurants, airports, or other public places.
Best Practices to prevent Free WiFi Scams?
In a recent article on Using An Airport Wifi Network, the Adaware Malware Labs Team created a list of best practices that should be used on any free WiFi network. Here are the highlights:
Encryption, Encryption, Encryption
- The Adaware Malware lab team recommends that you only go to HTTPS websites when you are on an airport Wifi. The “S” in HTTPS stands for “Secure” it is the secure version of the standard “hypertext transfer protocol” your web browser uses when communicating with websites.
- A Virtual Private Network is designed to encrypt your data, even before the shared airport Wifi sees it. Once encrypted, the data is then sent to the VPN server before being distributed to your online destination. Your online destination sees your information as coming from the VPN server and its location, and not from your computer and your site. The Malware Labs team feel that using a proper VPN solution is critical. We plan to make an announcement soon regarding this particular feature. So stay tuned for an announcement regarding Web Companion 5.0.
Treat All Free Wifi Networks As If It’s Unsecured
- The reason for this is self-evident, and that is because it is not secure. So changing some of your habits while online can help minimize the potential for negative consequences. When you go onto any site, make sure that you log out, do not linger or stay permanently signed in your accounts.
Keep your PC in Top Shape
- Use an excellent anti-malware solution; they are designed to alert you if you try to visit fraudulent websites or download malicious programs.
- Make sure that your anti-virus solution is up to date with the latest virus definitions.
- Make sure your PC’s security patches are up-to-date.
- Some Free Wifi networks now use different types of encryption like WEP and WPA. These are a positive step forward, but they might not protect you against all kinds of hacking. If possible look for a WPA2 network, as it offers the best encryption.
- Do not use the same password on different websites. It could give someone who gains access to one of your accounts access to many of your accounts.
- If you shop online, use a Virtual Credit card. A virtual credit card like PayAware will help keep your real credit card data secure in the event it is stolen.
In the next article, we will continue our look at some of the most common online scams perpetrated on students by looking at Online Text Book Malware