Posted by: nmarsh August 20th, 2015

There should be no doubt that we are living in the information age.    Our computers and the internet are an amazing resource, that allow us to access facts and resources that wouldn't even have been imaginable in years gone by.  We can connect with old friends, see pictures of our children and grandchildren, manage our finances and buy pretty much anything we want without even leaving the house.

It is sometimes easy to forget that by using these resources we are also leaving a trail of information about ourselves out there for anyone to see.  This is quite scary, when you think about it.  This week we got a reminder of just how scary it can be.

A scammer using the “Microsoft Scam” had found out just enough information on one of our clients to call them up and pretend that for a small fee they could fix any issues that they had on their computer.   This might sound peculiar to some of us and most would put a stop to the conversation pretty quickly.  Like our client, however, you may not have read up on the latest scams and might be glad of some help with your computer.  Of course to provide the fixes you need, the nice sounding person on the other end of the line, needs remote access to your computer and some bank details so they can charge you that, really, quite reasonable fee.

The problem is they now have access to a lot more information than they had before and are able to plant tools on your computer that can read what you are typing and search your files for logon information and passwords.  Basically, everything they need to clone your identity and access your bank accounts and investments.  Now, that is scary! 

So how does this story end?  Well I’m glad to say that our client felt like something wasn’t quite right and came to us, as a first call.  We advised him to contact his bank to re-issue cards and monitor activity and had our technology guy get rid of the nasty stuff planted on his computer.  So no harm done, right?  Well not really.  The client was visibly shaken and will probably take time to trust technology again.  This means that a blatant violation of someone’s privacy, may stop them accessing all the positive resources that the internet can offer.    

There are any number of articles out there on how we can protect ourselves from this sort of attack.  The perpetrators are getting ever more sophisticated and the threats are constantly changing but these basic rules should help.

  • Make sure you have anti-virus software and that it is kept up to date.  This will identify threats and clean out any viruses.
  • Keep your computers’ security settings on high.  This will put up a barrier or wall.

  • Keep your passwords and pins safe and don’t give them out over the phone or via email.  Your bank would never ask for them.

  • Only shop on websites that start https/.  The “s” at the end lets you know that the site has been authenticated and is secure.

  • Be wary of strange looking emails – even from people you know.  Don’t click on the links unless you can be sure it is safe.

  • Only access your financial institutions from known links.  Again, don’t click on links in emails.

  • Keep your computer physically safe.  Password protect it and have it locked when not in use.

  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.  There is no Prince in Nigeria that is going to give you a million pounds and the HMRC probably won’t send you a personal email to say you have a refund waiting after just one click!

Hopefully this is a timely reminder for some of you and we are of course always happy to help where we can.

Stay safe!