Time to make your Kids aware of Digital Fraud?

Long ago I watched a movie where the hero returned home after a harrowing experience only to find that an imposter had established himself there! The imposter had assumed the hero’s name, credentials and even his business! The hero had a tough time proving his legitimacy and showing the world how his doppelganger had committed the fraud.

Merriam-Webster defines fraud as “the crime of using dishonest methods to take something valuable from another person.”

In other words, it’s how people steal personal data, get signatures on legal documents on false pretexts or use other methods to impersonate another for personal gains.

You may have heard of how common it is to deceive people by promising them decent jobs in return for a hefty amount of money and then disappearing? That’s another case of fraud for you.

Have you ever wondered how the identity of a person is established online? It’s an interesting exercise, and very important for understanding and taking precautions against digital fraud.

So let’s consider the case of any one individual, say me. What proof is required to establish myself as a real person online? Here’s a list of the general data that may be required:

  • Date of birth
  • Mobile phone number
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Address
  • Bank account number
  • Credit or debit card numbers

Very little, actually, when you think of it. If I were to talk to the customer service department of my bank, they will normally ask me to confirm my name, phone number, date of birth and credit/debit card numbers before proceeding. Or, if I were buying an air ticket online using my credit card, I would have to provide my card details. Same for other e-transactions.

So what would a fraudster need to con you? (a) Name (b) DOB (c) Card details; that’s all!

I just know what your response is going to be. “Why should I ever share such important details with anyone? And my children don’t have their personal credit cards. So what’s there to worry?

True, you certainly will be careful and perhaps your children too are responsible internet users. But then cyber criminals are smart. They know how to get important personal data out from you, and especially from children, without raising suspicion.

Young people enjoy taking online relationship quizzes or personality tests that determine ‘What does your birthday say about you’; or ‘Find out who your ideal partner will be’; or ‘Where will you be in 20 years’… etc. Perhaps you like taking them too? J

These quizzes from unverified sources collect a lot of facts surreptitiously. For example, to find the perfect partner, the user needs to share his name, age and zodiac sign. So the website gets hold of three vital facts that can be misused or sold to a third party. Other quizzes may require details including date of birth, parents’ names, and nationality among other things.

Children also play online games or download content from free sites. Though free, these sites often have pop-ups offering tempting discounted rates for additional content. They may have their parents’ permission to use their credit card or parents may key in the details themselves. Often neither party pauses to verify the site and payment gateway. Furthermore, some free sites require that users save card details with them.

You see how easy it is? The modern identity thieves use very sophisticated traps to lure the victims. Their websites, ads or pop-ups pass the eyeball test and the malware in their programs can even hoodwink the device’s firewalls.

You are perhaps thinking, “Hmm! How can a cyber fraud misuse such details?”

Losing one’s identity online can have some grave consequences. Cyber criminals may use the data harvested online to create a new identity. Credit cards may be compromised and one may face monetary losses. Another pertinent worry is that a fraudster may use the victim’s identity to open multiple accounts for malicious purposes, or even to acquire government assistance or apply for jobs. These may have adverse future consequences for the victim.

As a parent, you can start by teaching your child how to identify possible digital fraud traps:

  • Online personality/relationship tests that ask for a lot of personal data
  • Pop-ups and e-mails that inform of lottery wins
  • Sudden rise in credit card balance
  • Sudden spurt in e-mails and social media posts from unknown people

And finally, help your child know how to manage his own online safety (but under your guidance):

  1. Safety in familiarity: It is better for children to limit their online forays to trusted sites and not take the risk of venturing into unsafe territories.
  2. Say nothing to strangers: Be wary of sites and sellers that ask for too many personal details. Better to review and research for authenticity before sharing details
  3. No free lunches: Have you won an online lottery? Has your character won lives or arms in the game you are playing? Are you eligible for a free holiday? Remember kids, nobody gives anything away for free. There is a catch involved and that catch is often a phishing scam.
  4. STOP right there if your game or some pop-ups ask for your name, date of birth, address and credit card details. Let an adult help you out
  5. Install and run Free McAfee WebAdvisor from Intel Security: This security tool works wonders in keeping you safe. It will mark safe sites and warn kids against unsafe ones. In addition, do not forget to use comprehensive security tools to protect all internet-enabled devices the family uses

In a nutshell, children need to think before clicking. As you install security software on your devices, install the cybersafety mantra in the child’s head ‘STOP.THINK.CLICK.’ Explain how their identity credentials are of vital importance and they have to take responsibility for safeguarding them.

Stay safe online!


Cybersecurity slated to become a major employment generator- Are you ready for it?

Hi There!

In November 2014, the United Nations Organization (UNO) declared 15th July as World Youth Skills Day. The purpose is to promote greater awareness regarding the importance of technical and vocational education as well as to train and develop requisite skills amongst youth globally. With the global unemployment issue assuming serious proportions, this day becomes a great background for parents, school and college authorities as well as career counsellors to take concrete steps towards empowering our youth by helping them:

  • Develop industry-specific skills
  • Make wise career choices; those that will stand them in good stead in the years to come.

Thanks to the internet, we now have greater awareness about different job openings all across the globe. Unfortunately, there are educated graduates who are unemployed or underemployed as they lack the right skills required for the jobs that for which there are vacancies. It is thus advantageous to explore the job arena before deciding on a career. One job sector expected to clock a huge rate of growth is that of cybersecurity.

When we talk about cybersecurity, the first thing that might come to mind is, “Ah! Antivirus!” But as all of you, my regular readers, know, it is more than that. Cybersecurity helps sanitize our virtual environment and secure our online activities and stored data. India has the second largest population globally for individuals connected to the internet, and as a mobile first economy, the need for securing our data as well as resources is becoming extremely vital. Additionally, with the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming a household reality, there will be more inter-connected devices (devices that talk to each other), posing greater security challenges ahead.

With cyber criminals becoming more skilled, the security challenges are constantly evolving and changing, calling for constant vigilance and staying a step ahead of the criminals. Reputed security firms are engaged in 24/7 monitoring of threats and often collaborate within the industry to offer a secure surfing environment to the users.

Now you would like to know a little more about the scope, right?  The future calls for higher security as we enter an era of connected devices. There have already been several cases where cyberattacks have compromised credit card details of users, ATMs, cars with computerized controls and more. The obvious need is for more advanced programs, stringent monitoring and strategies. And this is where cybersecurity professionals come in.

What are the future possibilities in this field? A NASSCOM task force estimated that the global IT security market is set to grow at over 8% annually. Specifically, it will create an employment opportunity for about a million Indians by 2025. Another key report which helps us understand the industry scenario is Hacking the Skills Shortage: A study of the international shortage in cybersecurity skills. This informative report by Intel Security, in partnership with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), reveals that 82 Percent of IT Professionals Confirm Shortfall in Cybersecurity Workforce. It also states that the “premium” pay earned by cybersecurity professionals is 2.7 times average professional pay.

This is what, Chris Young – SVP and GM, Intel Security Group, has to say about the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals: “In the US alone there are about 200,000 unfilled positions, and by the year 2020, the global cyber security talent shortage is expected to reach two million.”

If we consider a shortfall in information security professionals, it is of great concern for it exposes individuals, corporations and governments to all kinds of cyber-attacks. Can you just imagine the huge job potential for all those who develop their programming and become ethical hackers with great programming and coding skills? Some more bytes to help you decide:  Internet of Things (IoT) devices are expected to go up from 15 billion to 200 billion by 2020 and the focus of the cyberattacks will be more on gaining access to critical capabilities. The importance of the (Chief Security Officer) CSO is also increasing in all established companies as they embark on various digitization initiatives. The support from our government as well as initiatives like Digital India will only augment the need for skilled cybersecurity professionals who can ensure that technology can securely drive business growth. And we look to our tweens and teens to fulfill this future requirement. This is the right time and right field for them. They already are digital natives and understand the need for cybersecurity so help them develop their interests and opt for the right courses. Our youth and the world will both stand to gain.

So what do you do, when your teen comes to you and says,Mom/ Dad, I can’t decide what I want to do after +2? Initiate a discussion on the predicted growth in the cybersecurity sector. Take the effort to understand if the young man/woman has a preference or aptitude for technology and programming as this can become quite critical to their success as a skilled cybersecurity professional. If yes on both counts, then all you need to do is direct them on to the right path.

I hope I have been able to clear all your doubts and convince you why we need more cybersecurity professionals? 🙂

All the best to all the young netizens everywhere! Join the tribe of skilled cyber security professionals and remember to help spread awareness on cybersafety wherever you go!!