On June 10, a Nigerian Instagram celebrity Ramoni Abbas aka Hushpuppi along with twelve members of his gang were arrested by the police in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. They were accused of N169 billion fraud which affected over 1.9 million victims.
According to the Dubai Police, the gang specialized in creating fake web pages for existing company websites in order to redirect victims’ payment into their accounts. They also hacked corporate emails and sent fake messages to clients, redirecting financial transfers, and people’s bank details to their own accounts.
The sheer number of people – 1.9 million – defrauded draws attention to the mind-boggling reach and effect of cyber fraud. It also highlights the vulnerability that comes with using the internet. However, rather than shun online transactions totally, there are certain measures we can take to make it harder for hackers to advantage.
Let’s start with company emails – the portal through which Hushpuppi’s gang redirected financial transactions and accessed victims’ account details. When assigning emails, IT departments sometimes use generic passwords which are easily memorable. Once assigned, it is advised that the employee changes the password to one only they can decode.
In creating a password, Google, for example, advises it be more than eight characters long and include any combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Using this guideline, it will however be counterproductive to choose a combination anyone can figure out: something as basic as Password123@. Yes, it follows the rules, but it is not complex enough.
Another way of making your email less vulnerable is choosing two-way authentication. Some email service providers suggest adding a secondary email or a phone number to which, in the occurrence of a hack, they can send a code. Yahoo, for example, gives an option of signing in with its phone app. This means that only people with access to your phone can get into your email if logging in from a web browser.
Some websites ask you to choose from a number of secret questions and give an answer significant to you. Automatically generated questions include “What’s the name of your first teacher?” “What’s the name of your first street address?”. To be on the safe side, if given the option, it is better to use your own questions: one which cannot be easily decoded by any random acquittance.
A less-talked-about way of limiting hackers’ access to your email is by regularly deleting cookies from your browser. These cookies – which we are usually prompted to accept by websites we visit – are a form of tracker that websites use to keep tabs on us as we browse the internet; learning our habits and interests so they can tailor ads on their sites to these interests and habits. It is also through these cookies that hackers are able to trace us to our emails and send us phishing mails disguised as “links that may interest you”. So, when next you receive an unsolicited mail, usually from a random website or a stranger, it is advisable not to click on any links or attachments within that mail.
These are just a few ways to protect yourself and if applied, will make your email a lot less vulnerable to hacking.