Finance tips: Beware of the internet of thieves


In his regular finance tips: Dave Deruytter takes a hard look at those pesky online bandits.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a buzzword for few years. Connecting with your equipment via your smartphone and the internet has a lot of advantages. Still you need a secure internet connection for your Smart TV, fridge, washing machine, or central heating. If not, it is child-play for digital bandits to take over the equipment and maybe even virtually ‘kidnap’ it and ask you for a ransom to release it again.

Online payments are available everywhere today and their volumes are increasing very fast. But fraudsters are very interested in your bank card data and passwords. Once the money is stolen, it is a lot of work to try to get it back. Agreed, sometimes insurance can cover at least a part of the cost, but money is trust and we do not want to be ill at ease over a payment online.
The biggest risk to data or money theft may lie in the day to day use of more common apps and websites, including email. The likes of Google and Facebook know a lot about us. But one could expect that they have a name, a business to protect and will try to keep their systems, services and offers safe. On top of that it may be good sometimes that Google knows where you are when an unusual payment is requested from your credit card thousands of miles away. It is not so good to let the world know via Facebook that you are on holiday far away from home, leaving burglars with a potential target for a break in.
What about those apps we have on our devices that we rarely use but that still have access to the internet and to, at least some of, our data? That is where the real risk of data-theft may be. We should clean our devices regularly for apps we do not use. Even more, we should be careful when offers for downloads of free apps are presented. Such offers have become so common place, also on news or information websites, that one click by coincidence may trigger the download. It is important to react immediately and cancel the download or, if that is no longer possible, to delete the app. Clicking on ads when reading free news is a similar risk. The more blunt, strange or ‘to good to be true’ the offer seems, the more you are at risk of getting entangled in a system that wants your data, for you install an app, or even worse that wants your money.

The number of data theft, money theft, and even identity theft cases are rising fast, as are the success rate and amount of money stolen. Thieves like big, public places without social control. No surprise that the internet is a great place for them to operate.