A LEADING online security expert has warned of more and more sophisticated scams hitting people in Cork, with one man losing his life savings after answering a phishing mail he thought was from his bank.
The Chief Executive of Smarttech, Ronan Murphy, has highlighted a recent case where an elderly gentleman was wiped out of his entire life savings after replying to a phishing email which he thought was from his bank.
“He didn’t give a whole pile of information,” Mr Murphy said.
“He gave them his date of birth, bank account number and telephone number and from that, this Russian hacking gang were able to go into a shopping centre in Dublin, cancel his mobile phone, order a new phone from the mobile phone company.
“Then they downloaded a banking app to the phone and were able to gain access by asking the bank to reactivate the app on their new phone.
“The two-factor identification code was sent to their new phone and then they logged in and wiped out his life savings.
“It just shows how sophisticated these operations are becoming. That was a Russian gang, in Russia, with a unit in Ireland.”
Mr Murphy said in the run-up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where people will be shopping online, the general public needs to be vigilant about their online security.
“That phishing email was designed to steal some very basic information and that poor guy responded and the gang mobilised very quickly.”
Mr Murphy explained what a phishing email does.
“Once you click on the link of a phishing email, a whole host of different things can happen.
“You click on the link and install what is known as RAT - Remote Access Trojan - on your computer and that gives them access to your webcam, your files, your email, your passwords and they can do whatever they like.
“That is the worst kind of one because they could be on your computer for weeks or months, without you knowing.”
Mr Murphy said there is no way of knowing how many computers are currently affected by the problem.
“We have no idea of how many computers are affected by this, because there is no way of knowing, but we know it is something we deal with regularly.”
The Smarttech CEO said that people need to realise just how organised and motivated the cyber fraud industry is.
“The key message to take away here is these guys are multi-million euro industries and they are run very professionally with managers and line managers and leadership teams and they sit down with a map of the world and they pick locations and they pick somewhere like Ireland.
“They then build a campaign to target Ireland around what resonates with people and then they build a marketing campaign on digital media and attach sinister malware around that and they do the same around Europe.
“Some of the phishing emails we see will even have Gaeilge in them and Irish telephone numbers.”
Offering advice for consumers who may be making purchases online, Mr Murphy gave three pearls of wisdom.
“Ensure you are buying from a reputable retailer. Check the website address on the bottom of the page and make sure it is spelt correctly.
“Computer hygiene is a big thing and it should be looked after regularly. If you have pop ups coming up on your laptop, it is likely it is infected and you should get it checked.”
Finally, Mr Murphy said if you are making a purchase the online address should begin with HTTPS.
“This means it is a secured site.”