Cybercriminals targeting the vulnerable: Symantec

As part of Stay Smart Online Week 2014, online security companies are warning children, parents, and businesses to remain cautious about the growth of cybercrimes, particularly when it comes to mobile devices.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

One in three Australian children was a victim of a cybercrime or a negative online situation during 2012-2013, according to an annual report released by Symantec.

The Norton Report found 45 percent of children chose not to speak to an adult about their negative online experience.

At the same time, 76 percent of Australian children who were harmed by cybercrime and/or a negative online situation admitted to hiding what they do online from adults, and that cybercrime affects both sexes, with those harmed split evenly between males and females (33 percent for girls and 30 percent for boys).

Symantec vice president and managing director Brenton Smith said the key to online safety is education for both parents and children.

"Online safety requires a combination of open and ongoing dialogue and education between parents and children," he said.

"With just over half (55 percent) of the children surveyed saying they spoke to their parents about their negative online experience and only 22 percent staying away from where they were bullied online, it is clear more education is needed to enable children to make informed decisions about seeking help when dealing with cyberbullies."

Echoing this was Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull on his blog, noting the importance of security and the digital world.

"I have often noted that the biggest threat to online security is often not vulnerabilities in the hardware or the software used; it is the warmware — us — the vulnerabilities and shortcomings of the people using technology online," he wrote.

"The most common entry vector of malware into computer networks is from people opening attachments from emails that appear to be genuine – always check carefully that an attachment is from a trusted source."

At the same time, Symantec information security group, senior principal systems engineer, Nick Savvides, said businesses have the responsibility to protect consumers and their employees through a combination of processes and technology interactions.

"The first thing business can do is use server hardening software, which gives businesses the ability to lock down servers, understand what's on them, and harden the software that runs the infrastructure that is vulnerable to attacks," he said.

"The other thing they can do is to ensure systems are patched, and the applications are up to date; not only the operating system, but the application that are running on them. The Symantec Internet Security Threat Report indicated the average time to patch has grown. It's important to patch as soon as an update becomes available.

"The third thing is to enable customer facing technology, and running infrastructure and backend systems that uses good security software to prevent the execution of vulnerable malicious attacks. The customer facing technology is protecting users through two step authentication. We already see this on large web properties who are now offering multifactor authentication to their end-users. What that does is it reduces the chances of an account takeover."

Similarly, McAfee, as part of Intel Security, released Safeguarding the Future of Digital Australia in 2025 report (PDF), which found that only a third of Australians (32 per cent) feel safe and secure in an increasingly connected future.

The report also found that nearly half of Australians (49 per cent) feel a general level of comfort about the rate of technological change, and according to the report, by 2025 technology may have advanced to the point where it is implanted or connected to our physical selves.

"With the rapid changes and advancement in technology that collects and shares personal information, security cannot be an afterthought," warned Sean Duca, chief technology officer for McAfee Asia Pacific, part of Intel Security.

"When you add that we may be implanting technologies into our bodies and relying on them for enhanced function, and to keep ourselves healthy, it becomes even more imperative that we can trust them and that we enable a safe future."

The release of the reports coincides with Stay Smart Online Week 2014, a federal government initiative that emphasises the importance of online security for mobile devices.

The Stay Smart Online 2014 research found that Australian users of internet-enabled mobile devices are more concerned about connectivity than security. But two in three Australians are not confident about security of public Wi-Fi connections. This is despite 72 percent of Australians who use Wi-Fi services in locations such as cafes, shopping centres, and airports.

The research also indicated that nearly three quarters (74 percent) of Australian internet users are more concerned about deleting their browsing history than changing their passwords every six months (49 percent). Also, only two in five mobile users read 'permission requests' before downloading an app onto their tablet or smartphone.

"That little smartphone, never out of our own, or our children’s’, hand poses the same security and safety risks as the internet at home or in the office," wrote Turnbull on his blog.

"Indeed, it poses even greater risk in some ways because it is always with us, and we are often less focussed, more distracted when we are using it. It is the same with our tablets. We are usually on the go, or multi-tasking when we log on, which makes it easy to be forgetful or careless."

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