Soaring summer temperatures across the Middle East, and people working shorter hours during the Holy Month of Ramadan, translate to more time indoors and consequently, more time for us to spend online. And while users let their guard down, there is no shortage of cyber security concerns.
Criminals understand the seasonality of consumers’ online behaviour- their browsing and search habits -and exploit that information to their full potential. Luckily, by taking a few basic steps, you can surf in safety and beat the summer’s security threats.
If you were to drive to a mall- wouldn’t you first make sure your car was in good enough condition? Similarly, if you want to spend time online, you need to make sure your devices are in up to the task i.e. updated, patched and running the latest antivirus.
IT security is a fast-paced game and security vendors are often the ones playing catch up. This means that important patches and software updates are continuously being released. By now, users are familiar with updating their operating systems, but remember that even applications and software could potentially be exploited by hackers through back door vulnerabilities. Installing the latest updates and patches for your operating system, antivirus and applications such as pdf readers, image editors or mp3 players is tedious but an absolutely necessity!
During summer, and especially with the many Ramadan and Eid related offers on so many eStores, it’s easy to get drawn in to the appeal of online shopping. There’s nothing wrong with this either, but a few simple precautions are necessary to make sure you don’t become a victim of fraud.
You need to be careful where you shop- just because a great offer popped up on Facebook, doesn’t mean it’s a trusted retailer you’re being directed to. And when you do land on an eStore’s website, make sure you check the web address- looking out especially for the https:// at the start of the link. Unfortunately, with data breaches now so rampant, even legitimate and secure websites can unknowingly leak your private information. You should therefore prefer sites that utilize secure payment gateways and if you transact online often, regularly monitor your bank statements for any suspicious transactions.
We also recommend shopping via your preferred eStore’s mobile app. These are harder for cyber criminals to spoof and are generally more secure than their website equivalents since cybercriminals need to create specific attacks for each application.
Don’t Open Email Greetings from Unknown Sources
In today’s world, busy schedules, commitments to work and family, and near and dear ones spread out across the globe, have all meant that people are increasingly dependent on virtual modes of communication. It is commonplace to receive an email with the season’s greetings, not just from one’s relatives but also from scores of organizations and corporations hoping to strengthen relationships and positively reinforce their brand.
In this flood of electronic wishes, it is easy to open emails from unknown sources without a second thought. It is common for hackers therefore to exploit this and there are sure to be plenty of phishing emails disguised as greetings for the Holy Month.
Use Caution When Updating Your Social Media
The soaring temperatures coupled with schools being closed for summer vacations mean that many families will be vacationing together. Social media has made posting ‘going away for the summer’ updates a commonplace practice- the implications of which users don’t tend to think much about. And while it might be great to let your family and friends know which exotic destination is on your travel agenda, you are unknowingly running the risk of providing too much information. Criminals could pick up on such updates and utilize these windows of opportunity to carry out anything from identity theft to physical robbery. After all, you are far less likely to receive and check updates on suspicious activity when tanning on a beach in the Bahamas.
The simplest security measures are often the most effective. Basic precautions, though most often neglected, act at the first line of defence against an ever-growing number of cyber security threats. With the advice outlined above, internet users in the Middle East can ensure their chances of falling victim plunge even as the mercury rises.
Nicolai Solling, CTO at Help AG