Top 5 Cyber Crimes and How to Protect Yourself

With what has been going on in the world lately, cyber crimes are on the rise. It makes sense to protect your self as many ways as you can. All the ways in this article are related to each other in some way. For example, having a strong password will help you with all of them. Without further ado, here are the top five cyber crimes and how you can protect yourself.


I talked this a little bit in an article about poor IT advice. Malware is a software that is installed on your machine that is intended to steal information from your computer (password, banking Info any sort of personal identification). For the malware to be installed you have to click on something to get the release the payload.

Case in point, you receive an email from what appears to be a legitimate contact, but it has kind of a sparse and general message like “here is a file for the next meeting, please see attached”. It could be an infected office file (word, excel…etc.). If you click on the attachment it will appear to do nothing. Guess what, you just released its payload.

It is important that you stay aware when you receive email. I get it that you receive hundreds of emails a day but all it takes is one click. If you do fall victim to this contact, your Help Desk or MSP immediately. We have processes on how to deal with a malware infection. If it is not caught by the software, we have in place (Zero Day Attacks) we can isolate the machine from the network to prevent it from spreading.

Debt or Credit Card Fraud

This happens a lot and it is quite frustrating. You receive a call from your bank or credit card company of a possible fraudulent transaction. All you can do here is protect yourself by being aware of how you are using your card. For example, never use debit cards for online transactions. If it gets compromised, you do not have any recourse to get your money back or it is extremely difficult. You don’t want bad actors to access to your bank account!!

Credit cards should be used for when shopping online. Have one credit card for online purchases and one for any other purchases. This helps protect you even more.

When using both types of cards out at stores, ATM’s and restaurants only go to reputable places and don’t let the card out of your sight! This will reduce the practice of card skimming, where a bad actor makes a copy of your card and then is able to make fraudulent charges with the copy.

Data Breaches

You hear a lot about this in the news with big business, but it can happen to small business and individuals. For big business it is more than likely it is a ransomware attack, or their system was infiltrated by taking advantage of a security exploit (unpatched or zero day). For small business and personally it could be ransomware, malware, or phishing attack. With smartphones it could even be smishing.

Whether you are a big, small business or person, protecting yourself is effectively the same. Here is a list:

  • Keep all systems patched. If you can’t patch a system for whatever reason you need to have a mitigation plan.
  • Make sure that Admin access is only given to those who need it (Principle of least privilege)
  • Employ use of Firewalls, DMZ’s , ATP and encryption

All can attribute to a data breach if exploited effectively.

Compromised Passwords

Compromised passwords can be a start to a lot of nefarious activity like attacks and breaches. That is why it is important to protect them. Educate yourself and your users on making sure passwords cannot be easily compromised:

  • Use a complicated password
  • Use MFA whenever possible
  • Do not write your password down anywhere
  • Be aware of who is around you when you use your password (shoulder surfing)
  • Shred any confidential information properly (dumpster diving).
  • Do not have the same password for multiple systems
  • Be aware of what a phish and smish attempt look like.

Unauthorized Access to Email and Social Media

Falling victim to malware, phishing or smishing can ultimately lead to unauthorized access to email. Access to your email leads to hundreds if not thousands of possible victims’ bad actors could potentially exploit. What also could potentially happen is they could set up forwarding and other rules. They will get all email sent to you and you won’t even know they are in there. If you use O365 for email, email forwarding is disabled by default. If you are an Admin, you will also get notified if a user tries to set this up.

Social Media pains me in this regard. Bad actors set up Facebook Groups that are used to extract possible personal info from you. Have you ever received a post in your feed from random company saying something like “Your stripper name is the color of your shirt and what you last ate.”.

This is an attempt at gathering data on you. What you don’t realize by replying you have given them vital information. For starters by replying, you have given them your full name. By answering the question, you have given them two pieces of information that might be in a password you use. Let the hacking begin.

My advice is to never answer these. They are taking advantage of something legitimate companies started to bring awareness to their product or service.

The world of Cyber Crime is ever evolving so what I have described to you will change. The best you can do is stay vigilant. Larger firms need to add a security specialist to their IT department. If you are a small business, employ the services of an MSP. If you are an individual, subscribe to my blog. You can also follow me on LinkedInYouTube or Tiktok.

Shout out to Birmingham Consulting for the idea to write this article!

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I am an IT professional with over twenty years experience in the field. I have supported thousands of users over the years. The organizations I have worked for range in size from one person to hundreds of people. I have performed support from Help Desk, Network / Cloud Administration, Network Support, Application Support, Implementation and Security.

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