Hacked off by Phishing Frauds: We Are Right to Fear Internet Crime. but We Can Protect Ourselves, Writes Becky Hogge

Article excerpt

Batten down the firewalls, release the anti-spyware hounds, and up the spam alert to red status: 21 per cent of us are now more worried about online crime than about being burgled. According to a survey for the UK's Get Safe Online campaign, fear of being duped by hackers is enough to put some of us off going online altogether.

And we're right to be concerned. In the week the survey was released, coinciding with the national internet safety roadshow, Microsoft issued a record number of security patches for its software, and the online virtual world Second Life was attacked by a code storm of self-replicating grey goo. In 2005, losses due to phishing scams--bogus websites that con you into giving away your login details--amounted to more than [pounds sterling]23m in the UK alone.

The Get Safe Online website is a well-presented, comprehensive guide to protecting your computer and yourself. The Get Safe director, Tony Neate, advises consumers to treat their PC like their car-following the website's advice to keep it well maintained with the latest updates, and secure from real and virtual-world thieves.

Unless you are a closet gun fetishist, your car is the most dangerous thing you own. Neate's automotive simile thus bears a little stretching. Online, we cruise the information superhighway in souped-up machines that we barely understand. With a startling minority of us setting off with no anti-virus software or firewall--the equivalent of letting the kids drive themselves to school--we are a danger to ourselves and others. …