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“Is online dating safe?” Discover 5 activities that lead to internet dangers

Discover 5 online activities that contain an increased threat of cyber crime, and learn how to identify and avoid the most prominent security risks.

“Is online dating safe?” Discover 5 activities that lead to internet dangers

Internet dangers have become even more challenging to spot due to recent developments in artificial intelligence. With tools such as ChatGPT, DALL‑E, AIVA and Runway, generative AI is now capable of creating convincing, fraudulent content — including email and web copy, fake profile images, music, and even video — which has enabled cyber criminals to create their most convincing scams to date.

ChatGPT demonstrates how far natural language processing (NLP) has already gone, and how easy it is to write a very convincing mail or blog post with a simple prompt and a handful of keywords, said Abdullah‑Al Mazed, Senior Technical Product Manager at F‑Secure.

This means that it’s never been more difficult to spot cyber scams. And, according to F‑Secure’s Living Secure report — a cyber security survey of 7,000 people around the world — two thirds of respondents said that they no longer know who to trust online.

Anyone can fall victim to cyber crime, regardless of age or gender, said Laura Kankaala, Threat Intelligence Lead at F‑Secure. Scams online take many forms. Criminals can coerce victims to invest money in scam crypto opportunities, steal their banking credentials via malicious emails or phone calls, or even make them fall in love.

Thankfully, despite increasing threats and concerns around trust, you can greatly reduce the chances of becoming a victim of cyber crime by familiarizing yourself with the most prominent internet dangers, and by taking steps to protect yourself.

1. The dangers of online dating

The F‑Secure’s Living Secure report reveals that using dating apps is the primary safety concern people have online, with 42% of respondents feeling vulnerable when looking for love.

Dating apps are a lucrative ground for cyber criminals to exploit, Kankaala explained. With pig butchering scams — where victims are lured to invest all of their money in fake crypto investment opportunities — on the increase. These types of scams leverage social media and dating apps, using stolen photos of attractive people to lure in victims.

In these scams, people seeking romance are systematically convinced to increase the money they put into fake investments. But they are not always easy to spot, and they often target people in vulnerable positions. However, there are some ways to avoid them.

Online romance and financial entanglements are a dangerous mix, said Kankaala. If someone you’ve never met before in real life starts to talk about cryptocurrency — or any type of investment — be very careful. The criminals may leverage familiar-sounding brands or something similar to existing trading platforms, which make their scams seem legitimate if checked via a Google search.

2. The security risks of social media

The F‑Secure’s Living Secure report shows that 29% of people feel at risk when using social media services, with consuming and creating social media content coming in 3rd and 4th in the list of Top 20 online activities that make us feel vulnerable.

And the financial impact of scams targeting social media is also increasing. With the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) claiming that the cost of social media fraud within the United States has increased from $42m in 2017 to $770m by 2021.

Phishing via social media tends to come in friend requests and messages from cloned or unknown profiles, often promoting links to web pages. To avoid cyber attacks aimed at social media platforms you should ensure that:

  • you don’t click on links from unknown users;
  • you employ strong and unique pass­words;
  • you enable two-factor authentication where possible;
  • you use an application with safe browsing protection;
  • and you don’t accept friend requests from unknown profiles, or from accounts that you already follow (as these may be clones).

If you fall victim to phishing, change any affected pass­words. And if you’ve entered credit card details or financial information, contact your bank, and follow their instructions.

3. The internet dangers of gaming

While gaming itself doesn’t pose many internet dangers, the communities and platforms around certain titles have exposed gamers to a sharp increase in cyber threats, with 75% of children now playing video games.

Gaming is massive. And we found that it’s even more popular among kids than social media, said Joel Latto, Threat Advisor at F‑Secure. Because games aren’t usually associated with high financial risk, gamers tend to not take their security very seriously. And kids usually aren’t security conscious at all.

While some young people may ignore their cyber security, their safety still concerns their parents. And F‑Secure has found that 64% of people with children that game are worried about their safety.

Scams can take place even in gaming platforms — especially online games, said Kankaala. Oftentimes, in‑game items can have real life monetary value and stolen accounts or items can be sold for profit. Encourage and help children in setting up strong pass­words and in case their accounts are compromised, aid them in the recovery process. In the case that any money has been lost, contact your bank and file a police report.

4. Cyber threats and online shopping

During 2022, online shopping crimes were the second-most reported form of fraud (behind imposter scams), and F‑Secure data reveals that 25% of people feel vulnerable when shopping online.

There are ways to protect yourself when shopping online. Firstly, ensure that you use complex pass­words on your shopping accounts, using a free tool such as F‑Secure strong pass­word generator. Alternatively, you can use a pass­word manager, such as F‑Secure ID Protection, to generate, store and monitor pass­words, and be alerted of breaches should they occur.

Another way to protect your online shopping is to reserve one web browser and use it exclusively for shopping. And to improve your protection from internet dangers on mobile devices, consider only using official apps from vendors to make purchases. This removes the risk of clicking on scam URLs that replace official top-level domains with variants such as .xyz, .family or .club.

5. Threats associated with emails and messaging

With an estimated 300 billion emails being sent every day, it’s no surprise that scammers target email users. However, according to the TCSEW (Telephone Operated Crime Survey of England and Wales) phishing via instant messaging is now on a par with email.

The latest TCSEW data showcased internet dangers through 2022 and revealed that 32% of people had received a suspected phishing message via text or instant messaging, which was a similar amount to those targeted via email (34%).

More than half of those who received phishing messages reported they were from senders posing as delivery companies

If you have received a potential phishing message in the last month, what type of company were they pretending to be? TCSEW October 2021 to March 2022 interviews England and Wales

Source: Office for National Statistics — Telephone-operated Crime Survey for England and Wales (TCSEW)

TCEW data also revealed that half (54%) of those on the end of phishing scams were targeted by scammers posing as delivery companies, with a third (32%) receiving fake messages from a bank or building society. And a quarter of phishing scams came (25%) from government services.

We observe different forms of scamming attempts every day at F‑Secure, said Laura Kankaala. Avoid clicking on links directly in emails, direct messages or text messages. Keep devices updated and use strong pass­words and multifactor authentication to protect your online identity.

Keep in mind that phishing scammers have no scruples when it comes to targeting victims, and will pose as family members, friends, banks, online stores, health providers, and utility companies to steal your money. Scammers are also quick to take advantage of any hardships people may face, which is illustrated by the UK’s Suspicious Emails Reporting Service (SERS) receiving more than 1,500 reports — in just a two-week period — of scam emails offering fake energy rebates from Ofgem, the energy regulator in Great Britain.

Check if your data has been exposed

It’s harder than ever to spot cyber scams. To see if your data has been breached simply add your email address to the free F‑Secure Identity Theft Checker tool.

  • It’s totally secure and anonymous. And none of your data is stored.
  • Our tool scans and monitors forums on the deep and dark web.
  • Discover if your details have appeared in any known data breaches.

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