By Dorothy Thompson.
Cybercrime is not something that is just happening to the other guy; it is a real and present danger to us all, right here, right now in Australia. The threat is incredibly serious — and growing.
With our lives becoming more heavily dependent on digital communications and digital systems, cyber intrusions are becoming more commonplace, more dangerous, more sophisticated. Criminal adversaries daily target our nation’s critical infrastructure, including both private and public sector networks. Australian companies are targeted for trade secrets and other sensitive corporate data, and universities for their cutting-edge research and development.
Fraudsters and identity thieves target citizens and our children are targeted by online predators. This means enhancing the Cyber investigative capacity of all our National Law Enforcement services with a priority to sharpen their focus on intrusions into government and private computer networks.
The collective impact is staggering. Billions of dollars are lost every year repairing systems hit by such attacks. Some take down vital systems, disrupting and sometimes disabling the work of hospitals, banks, and OOO services around the country, and we the public probably only know a very small amount of what is really happening.
So who is behind such attacks? It runs the gamut from computer geeks looking for bragging rights to businesses trying to gain an upper hand in the marketplace by hacking competitor websites, from rings of criminals wanting to steal your personal information and sell it on black markets to spies and terrorists looking to rob our nation of vital information or launch cyber strikes.
These computer intrusions – counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal – are happening, but we don’t pay too much attention because it is all at arms length. But here’s a case where we all might well say “there but the grace of God go I”
In a recent chat with Taxi Film’s Executive Producer Andy Wareham we learned that Taxi has recently been a victim of a cruel and expensive cyber hack.
The crime went down like this.
“To give context to our experiences with cyber fraud, our email systems were hacked into and the criminals then proceeded to monitor our communications and send emails posing both as us and also clients we work with. They were systematic, observant and covered their tracks.”
“The whole saga began when we received a double payment from one of our international clients, of course we shot them an email to let them know of the mistake and asked them to send over their bank details for us to transfer the funds back into. At this point the conversation was hijacked and we received an email from the hackers, posing as the client, directing us to make payment into the bank account details they provided.”
“What followed was a back and forth with the ‘hackers’ systematically sending and replying to key emails, deleting their sent emails and generally stalling for time. There were communications between the ‘hackers’ bank and our bank, but we weren’t informed it was suspicious, and therefore didn’t think anything of it.”
“It all came to a head around 4 weeks later when we were contacted by the client letting us know they never received the money, and then subsequently by our bank to say they thought the transaction in question might be fraudulent.”
“At this point it was all too late, the money was gone weeks ago. As cybercrime is a rapidly developing field the process of getting answers, let alone retrieving the money, has been pretty arduous.”
“Once we found out what had happened we took all of the appropriate measures; tightening up our security, investing in the appropriate level of cyber protection, acquired some additional insurance policies and made sure to let people in the industry know. From what we’ve heard, this kind of smart, insidious crime is running rampant overseas and we want to make sure no one gets stung like we have.”
We then spoke with an expert in Internet Security.
Here is what they had to say:
How to Protect Your Computer
Keep Your Firewall Turned On: A firewall helps protect your computer from hackers who might try to gain access to crash it, delete information, or even steal passwords or other sensitive information. Software firewalls are widely recommended for single computers. The software is prepackaged on some operating systems or can be purchased for individual computers. For multiple networked computers, hardware routers typically provide firewall protection.
Install or Update Your Antivirus Software: Antivirus software is designed to prevent malicious software programs from embedding on your computer. If it detects malicious code, like a virus or a worm, it works to disarm or remove it. Viruses can infect computers without users’ knowledge. Most types of antivirus software can be set up to update automatically.
Install or Update Your Antispyware Technology: Spyware is just what it sounds like – software that is surreptitiously installed on your computer to let others peer into your activities on the computer. Some spyware collects information about you without your consent or produces unwanted pop-up ads on your web browser. Some operating systems offer free spyware protection, and inexpensive software is readily available for download on the Internet or at your local computer store. Be wary of ads on the Internet offering downloadable antispyware—in some cases these products may be fake and may actually contain spyware or other malicious code. It’s like buying groceries—shop where you trust.
Keep Your Operating System Up to Date: Computer operating systems are periodically updated to stay in tune with technology requirements and to fix security holes. Be sure to install the updates to ensure your computer has the latest protection.
Be Careful What You Download: Carelessly downloading e-mail attachments can circumvent even the most vigilant anti-virus software. Never open an e-mail attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of forwarded attachments from people you do know. They may have unwittingly advanced malicious code.
Turn Off Your Computer: With the growth of high-speed Internet connections, many opt to leave their computers on and ready for action. The downside is that being “always on” renders computers more susceptible. Beyond firewall protection, which is designed to fend off unwanted attacks, turning the computer off effectively severs an attacker’s connection—be it spyware or a botnet that employs your computer’s resources to reach out to other unwitting users.