Internet Phishing and Scams – A Warning to Heed!

cyber security

You’re used to the bubbly and upbeat Alan, and I know my blog of last week was about feeling overwhelmed with work and tasks at home. I used my “oxygen mask” as and when I needed to (if you haven’t read my blog, do have a look at it here) and started to breathe. However, just when I thought I was making progress, WHAM! Something else upset the apple cart!
It’s been another trying week.

A Car Accident and Cyber Trouble

A couple of days ago, I was involved in a car accident where a private bus went into the side of my car. I was pretty shaken up. I was stationary (in fact I’d gone to get my car from the next street while the council was re-tarmacking my road) and the bus came hurtling round the corner at speed and straight into me. Rather than being apologetic, the driver jumped out shaking his fist at me! As I said, I was very shaken but luckily, I wasn’t hurt – the car, on the other hand, was.

Navigating the Insurance Company

I then spent the best part of three hours on the phone (at different times) trying to organise my car insurance, get a courtesy car and I had to produce images of the damage using an upload system so I could get the repairs into motion (which will take time – there’s a shortage of spare parts!). It was very aggravating and time-consuming. One thing I don’t have at the moment is a lot of time! So the oxygen mask had to come out once again.

Insurance Isn’t Just for Cars!

Now of course, insurance isn’t just for cars, houses, holidays, health and life but having these things in place should make you “secure”. It isn’t always enough though and it got me thinking about what happened to the Interface website over the past couple of weeks.
I mentioned that I’d had some web problems in my last blog. Actually we had a nasty cyber-attack on the website which impacted the business for a good two weeks. Despite having all the security required on our website (which costs £2,100 annually and I’ve just added yet another layer of security on top), a virus got into it and disrupted lots of the website’s features. I even had clients phoning the business to check we were all ok because they couldn’t log in!
Rather like car insurance, despite having all the information in place for a “smooth” ride, dealing with the company’s website security breach was not a smooth ride and neither was me trying to organise my courtesy car, repairs and insurance claim.
It doesn’t seem to matter how much we plan in advance; we can still get caught. With the website, it seems that even with Cyber Essentials and Site Lock Secure (both paid for security systems), it wasn’t enough to stop malware getting in and redirecting to some unsavoury Asian website. I eventually employed an international company called Deventure to sort out the issues and thankfully, it’s pretty much resolved now, apart from a couple of glitches that should be easy to rectify.

Take Extra Steps to Cover Your Security

The point I’m making is that we all need to take extra steps to insure ourselves against potential problems. Phishing, malware, scam emails, scam text messages, scam phone calls and more are dangerous and lots of people make the mistake of falling for their pleas to send money or log in here or even just to reel off bank account details at the drop of a hat. I feel relieved that despite a cyber security issue on my website, my clients’ details were still perfectly secure because the goal for these attacks is always financially related. With our two-factor authentication, no one can get into client accounts without getting through this type of water-tight security. However, with all the will in the world, none of us can secure ourselves against personal scam attacks which is why I want to hammer home being wary of strange emails.

I’ll tell you a story.

Someone I work with who’s pretty careful with their emails and knows the dangers of phishing fell foul of an email scam only recently. She received an email from Microsoft saying that her log in details had been compromised and she should reset her password. She checked the email address (it looked authentic – except the end of the email address was hidden) and thought this looks real. So she clicked on it and as soon as she did, she realised her mistake.
The upshot was thousands of spam emails arriving to her work email address and disabling it. It took about 3 hours of calls to her email provider to stop the malware and remove the offending emails.
Moral – always check the email address, if the end is hidden do NOT click on it. If you’re unsure, then leave it entirely and delete it.

Here’s another story.

Someone I know of was on holiday abroad. She’s in her seventies and suddenly received a text message that looked like it came from her daughter. The message said something like “Mum, I’m in trouble and can’t talk right now but please can you urgently send me £500 to my bank account.” There were bank account details on the text as well. The text address looked real enough and so she started to panic, worried about her daughter and desperate to get the money over. Had her son not have called in the middle of this situation and calmed his mother down and check on his sister, she would have sent £500 to the account details on the text, and lost money to boot.

Technology is Advancing and So Is Phishing

The problem is that scams are becoming more and more sophisticated and for every phishing emails or text sent to millions of addresses, you can bet that one or two people will part with their hard-earned cash.
I receive at least one email a day telling me I’ve won millions of pounds! I also get Amazon reset requests, emails from Royal Mail asking me to book a redelivery, phone calls telling me I’m owed thousands from an accident I had five years ago and HMRC urging me to update my password (they never do this by the way) – I could go on and I’m sure you’ve had all of these and more.
Please, please DON’T click, don’t give out sensitive information, never part with money and report anything suspicious here:

If In Doubt, Leave It Out!

Even though I put in an inordinate number of security layers on the company website, we still got stung. I wouldn’t want any of you to fall victim to internet (or other) scams. So never, ever click on a link without being 100% sure it’s authentic and have as much insurance as you can – that insurance could just be about questioning all those strange emails, texts and phone calls and double checking that they’re the real deal. As far as what we do at Interface, we never send a personal email. All emails ask clients to log in using the two-factor authentication and retrieve any messages through our own secure system (and it remained secure despite a cyber-attack). Even if you think you aren’t susceptible, believe me, we all are. So as the saying goes, “If in doubt, leave it out!”

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