21 February 2022
The digital revolution has literally taken the world by storm. People and things are increasingly connected. Businesses are growing and whole industries are being transformed through the power of digital technologies. This was the focus of our article last month, and how technology is effectively enabling our lives, helping businesses to thrive, and driving growth across all sectors. We see our role as being an enabler of this transformation for the betterment of Maltese society in an ever more global landscape – our purpose is to drive a digital Malta where no one is left behind. Just as technological platforms evolve, so do the techniques used by cybercriminals whose aim is to breach privacy and access data for illicit financial returns.
Whilst digital natives are intuitively keeping up with the fast-paced transformation and are likely to be more attuned to security and safety measures, others are being left behind. Not everyone is savvy to ways and means of staying protected. Some are overwhelmed by technology – despite the benefits that it has to offer. Yet victims of cybercrime are not restricted to the uninformed – even the most technologically able people can fall victim to the highly skilled cyber criminals out there. We feel it is our duty to ensure we do our utmost in keeping our customers protected, but also informed. If you, like many others are active and regular users of the Internet – read on.
Keeping things relatively simple, we like to look at cybercrime from two angles: security and safety. On the security side, data and privacy matters are at risk, which can be mitigated through a combination of specialised products, apps and being well informed. With online safety, matters such as cyberbullying and grooming, amongst others, come into play. Whilst there are some tools available online, these kinds of threats are best addressed through awareness, education, and best practice measures. Throughout this article, we will be focusing mainly on security and will be looking at some of the threats out there, what you can do about them, and how we can help.
First, let’s put things into perspective. We talk of cyber attackers, fraudsters, and scammers – but what is the motive behind their action? Most cyber criminals are after financial gain or identity theft. Some are after the thrill of simply cracking into an account, but the damage is equally painful.
Recent figures released in the US concerning the Federal Trade Commission, reported that in 2021, 95,000 people reported being defrauded or scammed, with total financial losses amounting to approximately $770 million (approximately €680 million), which is huge when compared to 2017 reported figures where just 5,000 people collectively reported $42 million (around €37 million) in losses. Social media is also becoming a very profitable platform for scammers. And this is just in the US!
According to the World Economic Forum, in 2021, cyber criminals adapted their attack strategy to exploit vaccination mandates, elections and the shift to hybrid work, to target organizations’ supply chains and networks for them to achieve maximum disruption. Closer to home, according to the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity, ENISA, there were 304 significant, malicious attacks against critical sectors in 2020, more than double the 146 recorded the year before. On a national level we observed an increase of scams related to postal services, phishing and ransomware attacks.
It stands to reason, that the greater the internet use, the greater the opportunities for cyber criminals. At GO, we enable thousands of households and businesses across Malta and Gozo to connect to the Internet. But our focus does not end with a simple connection. We want to ensure the best possible online experience for our customers. There are two ways in which we are doing this. The first is through developing value-added products and solutions to support the overall experience and security issues. The second, is education.
Our inhouse security expert Kenneth Ciangura, Information Security Manager explains his views on internet security. ‘As a company we are collectively committed to developing solutions that will ensure the best possible experience for our customers. Security is important to everyone. Businesses have a lot to lose in the event of a data breach; private citizens may feel violated by a scammer or fraudster and youngsters who may be bullied or threatened online, or may simply come across inappropriate content can be negatively impacted ,’ he explained.
‘We know how important safety and security is to our customers because we too value such matters highly. Systems and services are designed with security and privacy in mind. Keeping our customers connected, with the peace of mind that their experience is safe, but more importantly, their family members are safe from harmful content, is another step forward in ensuring that everyone can actively participate in a digital society. So just as we have been taught all about street safety from a young age, similarly we need to learn about online safety and the precautions we need to take in this regard – and just apply them.’
‘This commitment inspired us to develop SecureNet, a cutting-edge cybersecurity product that is making our customers’ online experience not only better, but more importantly, more secure,” added Kenneth.
Peace of mind cannot be restricted to a fixed internet connection only. Many of our customers enjoy the freedom of mobile Internet, even more so today with the onset of remote working, and being constantly on the move; therefore having their mobile internet experience protected too was very important to us. Today, all our customers can use the GO network, safely and securely.
GO SecureNet automatically identifies and blocks fraudulent websites, significantly reduces the risk of malware, viruses, phishing attacks, cyberattacks or other threats. All devices connected to a home network will be automatically protected once GO SecureNet is activated. Another interesting feature that this product offers is parental control, which allows parents or authorised users to block access to websites containing unsuitable content for minors.
Since its launch, SecureNet protected users from over 25,000 online threats within the first month alone. Most of these threats were connected to malware, phishing attempts via email, SMS or other chat apps, command and control domains amongst others. Activating and managing SecureNet is extremely simple and is available from the GO App.
‘Whilst one cannot guarantee absolute protection from such security products, they do ensure that threats are minimised as much as possible. We all know the risks that driving and transportation carry, but it does not stop us from engaging in such activity. Likewise, we must not let these threats stop us from enjoying the benefits of digital technology,’ explained Kenneth. ‘We do however need to be more aware of what is out there and what we can do about it,’ he continued.
Sometimes, threats are disguised under seasonal activities. Cyber criminals will use every occasion, be it Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter, Black Friday or the like, to mask their real intentions. Users may not realise the malicious intention because they are caught up in the moment and typically the attackers will instil a sense of urgency in the way they craft their messages. Here are some top tips to help keep you and your family secure online:
|Types of online threats.|
|Malware||Also commonly known as viruses, worms, trojans and other variants. Today’s modern malware has become extremely sophisticated and can impact all operating systems across desktop and mobile platforms. Malware is typically delivered through downloads, attachments, malicious links and removable media such as USB drives.|
|Phishing campaigns||These attacks are usually done via email, SMS or chat apps to spread links which lead to domains with malicious code or schemed with the intention of luring customers to share sensitive information, such as account login details and passwords, credit card details etc.|
|Coinminers / Cryptojacking||These use the infected device computational power to mine cryptocurrency. The impact is that the victim’s device’s performance will be significantly slowed down impacting normal use.|
|Command and control domains||These domains aim to enslave a device and incorporate it into its network of devices called a botnet. In time, attackers use these botnets to undertake large scale Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks for example, thus launching attacks on other unsuspecting victims|
|Ransomware||Attackers encrypt a user or an organisation’s data and demand payment to restore access and to not leak out the stolen data.|
by Mandy Calleja, Head of Corporate Communications, GO plc.