Cyber Crime

October 10, 2019

As the internet has grown over the past few decades, so has our relationship with it.  Nowadays, most Australians are using the web to do their banking, to pay bills, to buy and sell goods and services and to stay connected. While the digital age has simplified many tasks, it has also created opportunities for cyber crime.

Cyber crime, including fraudulent transactions, has become one of the most common crimes affecting Australians, costing as much as $1.2 billion, annually. Technical attacks can occur to both client and professional service providers, such as banks and corporations, where email accounts are hacked by fraudsters who send requests for funds to be transferred into fraudulent bank accounts. Cybercrime has also evolved to the point of social engineering and tricking people into opening emails or clicking links that release malware that locks computer systems until ransom is received.

The Government is committed to launching strategies to secure prosperity to Australians in our connected world by establishing an initiative called “Five themes of action for cyber security by 2020”. This initiative includes building strong cyber defences and strengthening cyber security growth and innovation.  However, as much of the national digital infrastructure is owned by the private sector, securing Australia’s cyberspace must be a shared responsibility. It is important that businesses and the research communities work with Governments to improve cyber defences and to create solutions.

It is imperative that law firms are part of this conversation.

Law firms hold information about clients that may be valuable to cyber-criminals who can on-sell client personal or transactional information, once they have access to the firm’s computer system. Having strategies and practice management processes to raise awareness of and boost a firm’s cyber security is necessary for protecting a firm’s clients and reputation.

Clients are recommended to remain aware of the significance of cyber security and to be proactive rather than relying on business interfaces and protocols. The following are reminders of how to be smart with your data and thereby protect yourself against online scams:

  • Be aware that scams and fraudsters exist;
  • Keep your financial and email accounts secure, by utilising strong case sensitive passwords and refraining from allowing remote access to your devices;
  • Refrain from sharing personal information on social media and check your privacy settings;
  • Verify with whom you are dealing: confirm the legitimacy of their business, source and account security;
  • Refrain from opening links and attachments in suspicious emails from an unrecognisable source;
  • Be cautious of online requests for your private details or unusual payments;
  • Be careful when shopping online and use secure payment methods; and
  • Confirm wiring instructions verbally.

This last suggestion, of confirming transfer instructions verbally, is probably the simplest and most effective way of avoiding individual transactional frauds, at the very least.

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