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The internet has never been more present in our daily lives. We work, shop, play and interact with family and friends online. But more Australians are falling victim to online scams than ever before. The Australian Government’s Stay Smart Online week reminds consumers of how we can stay safe on the net.
Olga Klepova

5 Oct 2017 - 5:07 PM  UPDATED 5 Oct 2017 - 5:07 PM

Reports of cybercrime in Australia are on the rise. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s annual Targeting Scams report shows a 47 per cent increase in reporting of scams in 2016, with Aussies losing $300 million dollars. And almost half of those reporting cybercrimes are people aged over 55 years old.

With cybercrime activities costing Australia more and more, it has become a government agenda to raise awareness and protect its community.

Interpol identifies two kinds of cybercrime, firstly 'advanced' which are attacks against computer hardware and software. Secondly 'cyber-enabled' crime in which traditional crimes such as fraud, crimes against children and terrorism are transformed with the internet. Richard Davies, Technical Director in the Asia Pacific region at Context, Information, Security, says one of the trending cybercrimes is social engineering - a psychological manipulation. Mr. Davies says even straight forward hard luck stories can easily fool people.

"Quite basic scams, they call them the love scam, where someone pretends to be a boyfriend and then request money, and then quite often an individual can get sucked into it. It slowly develops over time and they end up giving up large amount of money, several hundred thousand dollars sometimes."

In May this year the impact of ransomware was felt across the globe. The so-called ‘Wanna Cry’ ransomware attack affected systems in 150 countries including Australia. Melbourne's Cyber Security Hub Director of Threat Intelligence Stas Filshtinskiy explains the growing threat of ransomware.

"Someone would encrypt all your documents, all your family photos and then ask some, not very high, amount of money to decrypt it and get it back to you. A lot of people that they would pay, because their entire family history could be wiped out."

Millions of credit card payments are processed online every day. The Australian Payments Network (APN) latest report shows that 78 percent of card fraud in Australia occurs online.

Stas Filshtinskiy says a way to spot cyber fraud is to use your common sense.

"Like you know in a real life, if something is too good to be true, that's most probably is an attempt to defraud you. If someone would come to you and tell you that I know a place where for 100 dollars they will give you the latest iPhone, you would not probably walk into that dark alley. If you get similar email from an absolute unknown place you shouldn't be clicking on any links or running any files coming [from] there."

At the time the minister in charge of cyber security, Dan Tehan says ‘Wanna Cry’ was an important reminder to keep software up to date.

"I think it is a real wake-up call for all of us. My hope is what it will lead to is more urgencyand more focus from departmental and agency heads at the government level, from boardrooms at the business level and from individuals and families of the need to make sure you're doing everything you can to keep yourselves cyber secure."

Millions of credit card payments are processed online every day. The Australian Payments Network (APN) latest report shows that 78 percent of card fraud in Australia occurs online. APN’s Chief Executive Dr Leila Fourie says card holders should be vigilant with payments big or small.

"What we see is that fraudsters take small amounts, and these increase over time. And what customers should certainly be doing is looking for the small amounts on their bills that don't make sense and that are unfamiliar."

Context, Information, Security Richard Davies works with businesses to raise awareness about cyber-crime. Educating individuals about risky phishing emails has short-term success.

"The results that we've found are quite interesting. For campaigns that are conducted every sort of 2 or 3 months, there is an increase in awareness and therefore a decrease of end users interacting with these emails, but if you wait a whole year and run a similar exercise again, the results are almost is exactly identical to the original one, indicating that the users didn't really increase any awareness or they just forgotten it over time."

When English is not your first language, understanding cyber-crime can be an additional challenge.

Stas Filshtinsky recently ran cybercrime talk for a Melbourne-based Russian Jewish community group. He says educating people is key.

"It's very important for non-English speaker migrant communities to get educated around cyber safety and security. The society around us is doing so much business online, doing it unsafe or not doing it, will only increase the disadvantages that are those communities may face in life. If we can help to educate them and to keep them safe online, that will bring benefits to everyone."

Yet, going online already implies surrendering some of private information. Richard Davies advises to start with simple online hygiene.

"From an end user perspective I would say the important thing is probably to have a healthy skepticism when it comes to interacting with emails, phone calls etc. There are a few good sources of information online that list sort of the most common scams that are happening at the moment. The other one to be honest is to keep software up to date, it doesn't always help, but it generally does protect against watering-hole attack, where you are visiting a common website which has been hacked, which will then look at target plugins in your web browser."

Find advice and tips on how to protect yourself on the government’s Stay Smart Online website.

How to protect yourself online?
Going online always implies surrendering some of your personal and financial information. But there are some simple steps you can take to prevent online fraud.