Hong Kong cyber crime cases soar in 2009

Computer usage is synonymous to Hong Kong homes and business. Take the following stats from Census and Statistics Department:

* Household computer penetration stood at 76 percent
* 73.3 per cent of those computer units were connected to the Internet
* 63.6 per cent of establishments use personal computers
* 98.8 per cent of business establishments use email as the most common function

This goes to show that Hong Kong people often use these machines for day to day life, whether checking stocks and communicating with friends to discussing projects and office deadlines at work. No wonder the incidence of cybercrime has been soaring during the past year.

Up to November of last year there were 1,378 cases were reported. This was a sharp increase compared to 791 of the entire 2008 and 678 in 2007, police data has revealed.

While we can attribute many of these breaches of security to hackers who access computers illegally, many other cases involve lack of initiative in securing personal accounts online. For every careless instant messenger user clicking on links to phishing sites, there is a corresponding email account owner who uses a password too easy to guess.

Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames and credit card details through a rogue site masquerading as a legitimate one. In the past, fake websites of Bank of China and Fubon Bank surfaced on the web, deceiving users into entering sensitive information. These scams are a mighty upgrade from the very obvious 419 Nigerian scam emails which feature capitalized subject lines, misspelled text and shares a tale of an heir to millions of dollars.

With the popularity of social media sites like Facebook that store sensitive information, and ubiquitous nature of instant messaging, cyber criminals can find more loopholes to exploit and add new victims at any given time.

The key is not really installing software to block intruders, but on awareness of Internet security. No matter how much money you spend on anti-phishing and anti-virus software, if you are negligent and don’t practice proper care of your identity online, you still might be the next victim of cyber crime.

Here are 10 quick tips to stay safe on the Internet:

1. Install a firewall on your computer
2. Look hard on a destination URL before clicking on a link
3. Never reply to a spam email
4. Never open email attachments unless you are expecting one
5. For Windows users, activate the Windows Update for latest critical updates
6. Do not reply to chain emails
7. Use a combination of letters and numbers as passwords
8. Update your passwords regularly
9. Avoid accessing financial or sensitive information in Internet cafes
10. Logout of your email and social networking accounts and close web browser after use