You might have noticed peculiar activity in your online accounts, especially in a time when a multitude of people have had to work from home. Well, just remember you are not alone! To quickly understand the recipe for this kind of attack, we navigate the scenario of ‘Jack’ the businessman who wished to save data costs at the expense of his customers’ privacy.
By Allan Sserwanga – Security Researcher
Jack operated an e-commerce website that helped his customers easily access groceries at home during the COVID-19 lockdown. In the long run, Jack felt a strong urge to optimise his costs by tapping on the freely available Wi-Fi in his neighbourhood. In the initial stages, it was all wonderful until he, later on, noticed unusual account withdraws a day after changing his email password. On thorough analysis on the situation, Jack recognized that his previous email credentials were still intact and the password reset prompt was rather a well-crafted phish. No sooner had Jack known he was hacked than the hacker stole private customer information that went straying on social media.
In times like the current COVID-19 situation, everyone must take full responsibility for how and what they access on the Internet. The story of Jack is one that possible for any of us provided you do not implement best online practices and cybersecurity hygiene. The motivation for the phish was the fact that Jack’s IP address was freely visible on a network he was not sure of.
When you are browsing the web, you need to be aware of the safety of your personal information, the security of your communication, and trust of the network. Your personal information is safe provided you do not share passwords or credentials with other people nor enter them on a fake or phishing site. Secondly, you need to look out for the HTTPS secure connection on almost any site to prevent leakage of payment information, messages or whatever is being sent back and forth. The network itself is another vital component of your online safety. A corporate network, for example, is presumably well-secured and without malicious actors whereas a less trusted network, like at an independent coffee shop, is more often a threat to your digital security.
As more people are getting to work remotely, successful phishing attempts are yet to increase. It is important to note that poor online practices can result in many damaging scenarios for businesses such as loss of intellectual property, damage to enterprise data, and download of malware.
Put these measures in place for your online safety
- Be certain that you are using HTTPS on websites you visit. You may make use of a browser extension, like HTTPS Everywhere to help keep your browsing on public networks safe while also looking out for certificate errors.
- Do not provide personal information to public Wi-Fi access points especially without a VPN.
- Before you risk clicking on a link, hover the cursor over the hyperlink to see the URL that link is bound to take you to. Alternatively, just right-click the link to copy and paste it into a text editor for better analysis.
- Use private browsing modes to minimize the amount of personal information you send to web servers.
- Think carefully of sites that offer your email provider for log-in because this can pose a high risk of a data breach.
- You can consider using the Tor browser to ensure location privacy when online.
- Refrain from using VPN providers that offer their service for free because they often log traffic and sell it to advertisers to make money. Choose commercial established VPNs such as ExpressVPN and Nord VPN among others.
- Block trackers and adware as you browse around the web by installing software from your browser’s extension store such as Privacy Badger, offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and uBlock Origin.
- Use a strong password for your home Wi-Fi and have the WPA2 encryption enabled.
- Restrict access to your Wi-Fi by MAC address white-listing.