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Attack of the Hackers: The Evolution of Cybercrime

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In an age where we're all becoming internet savvy, spending more and more time on computers divulging our personal information through no fault of our own, it's no surprise then that cyber crime in on the increase.

Spam emails, fake sites and hoax products are all used to lure bargain hunters and online shoppers into divulging credit card details or downloading viruses onto our PCs. And unfortunately, the most careful and conscientious of us can become victims - including myself.

Last year all my email and social networking accounts were hacked into and a message was sent out to all my contacts that I had been "robbed at knifepoint" and therefore needed "money sent over to ensure my safety".

After some rather frantic phone calls from my older relatives - my Dad was getting ready to wire money over to an unidentified Western Union account before I got in touch with him insisting I was fine - I changed my passwords and ensured my privacy once again. But for how long this time?

Cybercrime costs UK organisations an average of £2.1m a year each, according to the 2012 Cost of Cyber Crime study by the Ponemon Institute.

And just days ago, the Cabinet Office announced it's set to launch a public cyber security awareness programme early this year aimed at improving the online security of consumers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and increase computer and mobile antivirus awareness.
The initiative is part of the government's cyber security strategy aimed at ensuring the UK can manage the risks and harness the benefits of cyberspace.

The new programme is needed, they say, to continue to educate customers so that everyone using the internet is better informed of the potential risks and how to protect themselves.
The programme will specifically target school children, as well as adults who take a relaxed attitude to posting personal details online and refrain from installing antivirus software onto their computers, according to The Guardian.

So what are some of the most damaging scams and how we do protect ourselves against these attacks on our privacy? According to an Australian study, some of the scams include sending fake delivery notification emails. We've all received those emails before, right? You've spent the weekend browsing on Amazon, looking for last minute gifts for family members or for yourself. A couple of days later you receive an email in your inbox from someone claiming to be from Amazon, with a link for you to click. The important thing is not to click it!

Experts advise shoppers write down all tracking numbers for purchases and not click on links that don't match the numbers you've written down. Hackers also send fake order confirmation emails from stores that look legitimate, causing shoppers to think someone ordered a product under their name.

It's important to double check the sender's email address and website URLs before clicking on the link to cancel a transaction, as fake emails will rarely match a legitimate company's website exactly.

You should also phone a company to confirm if unsure.

Holiday-themed screensaver downloads can contain malware. If you want to download a holiday screensaver, you should always use a trusted site to do it. You may not have realised before (I certainly didn't), but free screensavers are an easy way for hackers to spread viruses.

And, of course, social media can fast become anti-social if you become a cybercrime victim.

Hackers are increasingly using social media to spread malware. Fake Facebook competitions, video links with spyware, and Twitter viruses are all lurking within the social networking sites we use every day.

January brings about sales and bargains and presents that you actually want, so it makes sense to assume we'll all be surfing the net more. This is a perfect opportunity for hackers, phishers and scammers to strike.

Don't let the New Year bring the expense of fixing a damaged computer, the stress of dealing with hacked credit card details or worse the unknown and undetected dangers.

With the year ahead being predicted to bring about more counterfeiting, cybersquatting, digital piracy and phishing, it pays to be savvy about such matters now. Install virus protection on your computer if you haven't already and make sure all your devices - tablets, mobile phones and desktop computers - are protected. I have.

Since I got hacked last year, I made a promise to myself. I've fallen victim to cybercrime once before - I won't again.