Forgotten about this sneaky little entry for home intruders? Cyber Crime is big in SA.

While we’re setting up physical barriers around our homes, alarming our entry points & employing security personnel to keep a watch over us at night, many of us neglect to set up intruder prevention in that ever-important gateway to our private lives: our Internet-connected tech. items.

Have you considered any of these basic tips (according to Cybercrime.org.za)?

  • Don’t wear your workplace name badge outside of work
  • Don’t let family or friends use your workplace computer
  • Use Google’s cached mode to avoid spyware
  • Don’t use the same password for everything

These are a few of many precautions you can take to avoid being targeted by cyber & identity thieves, not to mention run-of-the-mill burglars!

Reading a paper written by Charles Goredema & published on the Institute for Security Studies (CrimeHub) website, it seems that online criminal activity has a far larger impact on South Africans than we realise. From our cell phones to our PCs, more and more South Africans are using the Internet to conduct daily activities. Banking, social networking, file-sharing, emails, calls, the list is endless!

And you’ve received plenty of warnings about limiting your personal information on Facebook & other social media cyber crimesites. But who really heeds those warnings? What need is there for criminals to look through our Facebook pictures, read our e-mails or keep tabs on what restaurant we’re ‘checking in’ to? Well, lots, actually.

These days it’s pretty hard NOT to have your whole life laid out online for all to see, so you may end up embracing personal transparency, but be sure to take precautions at the same time. Don’t forget just how public social media is. Not everybody needs to know how kind your neighbour was to feed your cat while you’re out of town this week (score for burglars!). Be sure to screen who sees your posts when you post them.

And it’s not only private info that counts. By viewing your profile (remember, even Facebook ‘friends’ are possible threatsFacebook friendemy, not to mention ‘friends-of-friends’), people are able to see, for example, your favourite books, songs, people, food; they can see your kids’ names, where you live & which school you went to. The list goes on! And through this they can have a stab at guessing your important passwords (tell the truth: how many of you have used your children or dogs’ names in your password? Aha!). These may seem like long shots, but cybercrime is certainly on the up, so it’s worth paying attention to and keeping yourself as safe as possible.

We lose or have stolen, countless cell phones every day in South Africa. You’re mad about replacing the handset? What about protecting the sensitive information on those phones? Family photos, images of inside your home and out, recordings of your voice (often imitated in bank scams), open e-mail accounts, ‘remembered’ passwords, personal contact information, and much more. People use multiple recognition tools to gain access to your cash, for example, and banks are not always as vigilant as you think! Passing a few of the security ‘tests’ by giving private information may just open doors for one determined criminal to your personal finances. I’ve seen it happen first-hand.

A South African website focussed on Cybercrime, offers handy tips for doing what you can to avoid having your bank accounts hacked into, your house burgled or your credit cards copied by online crime rings. The tips range from protecting yourself from identity theft to never giving your password out to helpdesk personnel (never! Really, don’t do it!).

According to the Department of State Security, “social networking sites were tools and platforms that accelerate criminal activities”. Here, I agree with them & hope that we all start paying just a little bit more attention to the threat from our technological wondertools (we’re not talking Skynet here, but having your bank account cleared can seem apocalyptic!). I’m changing some of my passwords right now (according to the Cybercrime website, use pass-phrases & not passwords!).

So don’tProtect Data become too complacent. Don’t use the ‘remember password’ function that often, don’t keep that many images on your phone, avoid letting people know your predictable daily habits. If you love your fiancé so much that you blast your passion about her to the online world 5 times a day, don’t use her name as your password. Nor your pet rabbit’s. Be a little mysterious & enjoy a little anonymity once in a while.

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