The technological innovations of our time have brought us many wonders and also the ability for people to leverage that technology for dubious ends. As we plunge further into the Digital Age, a general knowledge of computer crime, or ‘cybercrime’, is increasingly important.
In its most fundamental sense, cybercrime is committed by any person using a restricted computer without consent, with heavier penalties applicable where they cause or intend to cause damage or gain a benefit. This covers a broad array of offences, from email scamming to credit card fraud or computer hacking and misrepresentation. It is important to note that using someone’s ‘computer’ entails the use of parts of that computer system, network and external hard-drives or other connected hardware.
In Queensland, cybercrime is criminally denominated as ‘computer hacking and misuse’ and can carry sentences of imprisonment for up to 10 years. Part of the danger of cybercrime is that those perpetrating it may be significantly removed from the victim of the crime in a geographical sense. For example, a credit card fraud issue for a person in Cairns could originate from somewhere halfway around the globe.
There are a number of avenues for compensation if you have been the victim of cybercrime. Where there has been a cybercrime committed, you should first notify the police, but also understand that they are generally unable to recover money you may have lost because of the crime committed. Further to this, you should also immediately notify the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) so they can commence investigations on your behalf.
The difficulty of isolating the origin or jurisdiction means that preventative action is one of the best measures of protection. There are a number of proactive strategies you can use to protect yourself from cybercrime:
1. Make sure any devices or networks you use are protected by passwords, PIN or a security code. This will ensure people can’t access your hardware in person. This includes WIFI!
2. Install virus protection software and firewalls on your devices, and ensure you change your passwords regularly. Don’t use the same password for multiple sites.
3. Keep an eye on your bank account/financial records and report any unauthorised transactions to the bank and the police immediately. Routine reconciliations are a good way of carefully tracking transactions to ensure that nothing untoward has happened.
4. Criminals may use false emails, messages or even telephone calls representing themselves as financial institutions, government agencies or other ‘legitimate’ organisations. Legitimate organisations will never ask for your passwords or financial details unprompted. If in doubt about the authenticity of the communication you receive, research that organisation and check for the correct contact details. Also contact the organization to confirm the communication sent and received. Only ever upload information to a source you know and trust.
5. Never reply to obvious scam emails, and if you are concerned as to the nature of an email or if it is unsolicited, delete it without opening. Sometimes the sender’s email address is the best give-away. If the email address after the ‘@’ symbol doesn’t match the email address the organisation publishes on their website, it is most likely a scam email.
6. Keep your privacy settings on social media strictly maintained, so people you don’t know don’t have access to your identity or personal information.
7. If online shopping, make sure the business or site you are purchasing off is legitimate and is secure (check for a closed padlock in the address bar!). Use a debit or credit card with a very low limit just to be safe.
8. Law firms are not immune to the fraudulent behaviour of others! If you have engaged a firm to act on your behalf and you receive a request to deposit sums of money to that firm, telephone (on a known or separately verified number) the apparent sender of the communication to confirm authenticity.
With a progressively digitising world, knowledge of how to best protect yourself against computer crime is essential. If you have more questions about computer crime, or believe you have been the victim of a computer crime, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1300 FNQ LAW.
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Disclaimer: This article contains general information and personal opinions. The information contained in this article is not legal advice and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information in this article as an alternative to legal advice from an appropriately qualified professional. If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult an appropriately qualified professional. You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information in this newsletter. We do not represent, warrant, undertake or guarantee that the use of information in this newsletter will lead to any particular outcome or result.