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Navigating the internet danger zone

By | Dec 9th 2009 | 2 min read
By | December 9th 2009

Wachira Kigotho

Cyber crooks are roaming the Internet and their targets are web greenhorns such as secondary school leavers who for the first time have unlimited time exploring websites, visiting chat-rooms and social networking sites such as MySpace, Twitter and Facebook through computers and mobile phones.

Unfortunately few school leavers are aware of the dangers lurking in the World Wide Web. The issue is that few parents and teachers have prepared them for the dangerous masterminds of the virtual world. Such criminals include small time cyber beggars, bullies, and paedophiles, counterfeit goods marketers, academic cyber cheats and hardcore criminals who attack financial systems and information data banks.

But where most school leavers may avoid the above category of cyber criminals, they should be wary of threats posed by identity theft criminals who are the new generation of cyber stalkers. According to a new report by Symantec Corporation, the world’s largest makers of security software, Internet users have become prime prey of identify theft criminals. "Visitors are introduced to a different world and are keen to make new discoveries and meet new friends," says Mr Anthony Njogu, an Internet security specialist.

Spoofed addresses

He says most school leavers will open their own e-mail accounts, which are very attractive to cyber criminals. Cyber criminals can send mail with spoofed return addresses, a system that makes it almost impossible to discover the true origin of the messages, threats, spasm, pornography and other types of correspondence.

In case the holder of the account is lured to get in touch with the sender, he or she is likely to be become a victim. According to Njogu, few new users are protected against spam invasion since most e-mail domain owners do not use filtering software.

According to a recent analysis carried by Forrester Research, a Massachusetts based technology and market research company, the number of Internet users is expected to grow 45 per cent globally in the next four years, reaching 2.2 billion by 2013.

Most new Internet users are trusting and often reveal their passwords to criminals.

At risk are bank accounts of parents whose children use Internet. Quite often cyber criminals ask their victims to send passwords, pin numbers and account data as a form of identification.

Sensitive information

"Sending sensitive data to strangers is tantamount to providing safe passage to cyber identity fraudsters," says Njogu.

Criminals guide users to what seems like a legitimate or trusted service provider but the email contains a link. "The user follows the link and is asked to provide information, maybe a log in, password or national identification card number.

The information is used by the criminal, in connection with other information the criminal has bought online on the black market or legitimate sources," says Matwyshyn.

In Sub-Saharan Africa a network of cyber fraudsters is emerging and working closely with other cyber gangs in Nigeria and South Africa.

Information provided by school leavers is likely to become a gold mine in future, especially when those school leavers get jobs.

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