6 tips to protect yourself from cybercrime
Considerations for European Data Protection Day 2022
What is the initial situation regarding cybercrime?
According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Home Affairs (BMI), 25 percent of German Internet users have already become victims of cybercrime. This is a collective term for illegal acts in the computer and telecommunications sector. In addition to non-conforming use, it poses a major risk to the protection of your data.
Reports of hacker attacks, data theft and the exploitation of security vulnerabilities are increasing. Millions of sensitive information are misused in this way. And the trend is rising.
The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) provides very concrete figures from a Statistic on the Federal Situation of Cybercrime 2020. According to the report, there were almost 8 percent more cyber attacks than in the previous year. The detection rate is conceivably low at 32.6 per cent. A total of 108,649 cyber offences were recorded - and 320,323 offences in which the internet was the means of committing the crime. The distinction here, by the way, lies in the type of crime. Cybercrimes in the narrower sense are offences that are directed against the internet and information technology systems, for example. Offences with the internet as a means of committing an offence are cases in which the internet was only used as an executive medium.
To combat this, the BMI developed a new Cyber Security Strategy for Germany in September 2021. It includes action plans for the next 5 years with the following goals:
- Establish cyber security as a joint task of state, economy, society and science,
- Strengthen the digital sovereignty of the state, business, science and society,
- Shape digitisation securely and
- Make goals measurable and transparent.
What can you do yourself?
Some of the following points may seem trivial at first glance, but are unfortunately often ignored in everyday life.
Prevent data theft
The best protection against data theft is still to leave as little data behind as possible. You should be particularly sparing with personal data such as addresses, telephone numbers, health data, etc., only transmit them in encrypted form and only store them in secure, password-protected places (e.g. a password manager).
If you want to test whether your data was shared in one of the data leaks of the last few years, you can do so at Have I Been Pwned or with the German-language version of EXPERTE.de. Just enter your email address and the websites will tell you which account data might have been leaked.
Tip 1 : Anonymise your usernames
If the option is there, you should use nicknames. Second names can also be helpful on social media. If you want to have a say on blogs or comment publicly, it can help to use a second email address that doesn't directly identify you. This is possible, for example, with free services such as Gmail, web.de or Yahoo.
Tip 2 : Be careful when handling access data, e-mails and attachments
When entering access data, make sure you use an encrypted connection and do not pass on any access data via the Internet or e-mail. For example, if you receive an email about an allegedly blocked account, do not follow the link in the email itself, but log in directly via the website and check whether something is wrong with your account. This will help you avoid data theft through phishing e-mails.
If it is obvious that an e-mail is spam, it is best not to open it at all and, of course, not to reply to it. And even if curiosity is sometimes great, it is not a good idea to open unknown file attachments. ;)
The display of file extensions in the respective operating system prevents you from opening "You absolutely have to read this.pdf.exe" and its consequences, even with supposedly known senders.
Tip 3: Protect your profiles
In social media, you can edit your profile in the settings so that only friends and acquaintances, or even specific user groups, can see your content. However, you should be careful. Once data is online, it cannot be completely removed with absolute certainty.
Tip 4 : Use strong passwords
The longer the better - but at least 12 characters. Also, don't use information that is easy to guess, such as names or birthdays. Each account should have its own password. Password managers such as Keepass, LastPass or 1Password are recommended for this.
Tip 5: Stay up-to-date
Regular updates (and here we do not mean "regularly once a year") prevent known security gaps from remaining open - both in operating systems, the hardware you use, the apps you use and in your browser. In the settings (e.g. Mozilla Firefox "Tools - Settings - Security or Privacy") you can also actively determine how you want to protect your browser.
Tip 6 : Protect your computer
Surprise! You should definitely use an anti-virus programme and a firewall to stay safe on the Internet. If you are using Mac OS or Linux, the scholars argue. An encrypted WLAN connection is also important. Open connections allow anyone within range of your wireless network to read data such as passwords and credit card information if you send it. In addition, black users are hard to track down. Worse, if they use your network for illegal activities, you will have to face the legal consequences. Be careful with public computers, as these networks are also easily vulnerable.
And if something does happen?
Then you can contact the Internet Complaints Office. You can report problems here - from inciting comments in a forum to harmful images on a website to spam e-mails. How successful this is is another matter.
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