Thursday, December 15, 2022

CRIMINALS with limited computer knowledge are buying software to use for phishing and ransomware scams.

Insight into cybercrime and the challenges we all face in navigating the internet safely were provided by Detective Sergeant Eoin O’Connell of the National Cyber Crime Bureau at a recent meeting of Carlow Joint Policing Committee. Sgt O’Connell noted that the pandemic had led to more and more people having to do more business online, including many vulnerable and elderly people.

“People with limited computer knowledge can go on the dark web, the hidden internet, and buy a programme that they can send out to target people without having to write a programme or line of code.”

Sgt O’Connell urged people to “think before you click” when getting unsolicited emails or messages.

“Take a moment, ask advice from someone. Always be aware that an email or message you get could possibly be a scam,” he said.

Scammers can get your details in the first place from a website hack where you have had your information stolen. Web companies also have permission to sell certain data collected from you online which can be sold in some instances to bad actors.

Sgt O’Connell, who is based in one of the bureau’s four satellite hubs in Wexford, outlined the work of the cybercrime bureau, which included child trafficking and sexual abuse photography, copyright, offences against computer systems and, more recently, online harassment and harmful communication, known as ‘CoCo’s Law’.

The bureau was involved in the recent arrest of 16 people in Ireland for scam operations and the arrest of 50 people internationally.

The bureau is also training local gardaí to be digital first responders to have knowledge in the seizure of digital evidence.

Sgt O’Connell said the pandemic had also led to people going online for dating, with ‘sextortion’ occurring. People were being encouraged to send nude images of themselves, and this was used against them in order to gain more images or for money.

People should be aware of their social media presence, said Sgt O’Connell.

For example, if you posted you are on holiday, it gives an indication that your house is vacant. Child groomers could also discern information from photos posted online, such as details of where a child went to school based on the uniform or where they lived.

“If you are not willing to post it on a billboard in the middle of Carlow town, do not post it on social media,” said Sgt O’Connell.

Other tips for the public included avoiding using public wi-fi, using a variety of passwords and updating anti-virus software. Multi-factor authentication was also strongly recommended where a user has to provide two or more verification factors before being granted access to a website or app.

“That will prevent a lot of inadvertent access to your accounts,” said Sgt O’Connell.

More tips can be found on the garda website here.

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