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Cybersecurity

How con artists scam the elderly in the digital age

Yehia El Amine

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digital

Scammers, hackers, and fraudsters have attempted to exploit our lack of knowledge both on and offline. Unfortunately, senior citizens have been on the short end of the stick for a while, making them the most targeted groups among all others.

A report published by Deloitte estimates that scammers steal almost $2.9 billion per year from seniors along. The main reason elders have a huge target painted on their backs is mainly due to being less familiar with technology.

Why seniors?

These senior citizens are usually approached in a myriad of ways such via telephone, in person conversations, or online through emails, or various social media platforms.

According to a report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to certain types of fraud. Scammers prey on the elderly for a variety of reasons.

Let’s jump right in.

1. Money

Fraudsters target elders for the same reason banks get robbed: that’s where the money is.

Everything from life savings, bank accounts, mortgages, or social security, as most elders tend to own their own homes. According to a 2017 Federal Reserve study, the average net worth for American households headed by someone age 65 and older is $1.067 million — 1.5 times as high as the average for all households.

However, it’s not always well-off elders aren’t always the main prey for scammers. A 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation report calculates that 14 percent of all seniors are living in poverty. Scams that target the elderly take in many people living on fixed incomes who can’t afford the financial loss.

2. Exploiting their trust

Be them rich, poor, or belong to the middle class, its not a secret that senior citizens are lonely and yearn for companionship. The older these senior citizens become, the more likely they’ll be isolated due to their friends and families either dying or move into nursing homes.

This yearn for companionship makes them easy prey for con artists, which gives them an easier way to worm their way into someone’s trust for illicit reasons.

One needs to keep in mind, that the baby boomer generation (or people born in or before the 1960s) are usually more inclined to trust strangers, as their upbringing taught them to be polite, while assuming that others are being honest.

This makes them less willing to interrupt a sales pitch or hang up on a scammer.

3. Forgetfulness

According to a 2018 report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), senior citizens are more likely to report scams than younger people. However, con artists know that even if their elderly victims report the crime, there’s a good chance they won’t remember the details.

This causes problems with local law enforcement, as elders find it difficult to provide detailed descriptions to help track down the perpetrators, especially if a certain time period has passed since the victims were conned.  

4. Targeting their needs

The most common scamming tactic is by approaching the victim with something that they need, such as Social Security or healthcare, and fake investments in the hopes of cashing on some retirement money.

Common schemes

With the elderly population growing and seniors racking up more than $3 billion in losses annually, elder fraud is likely to be a growing problem, this has attracted the attention of many law enforcements agencies around the world.

There are several common ways scammers can attempt to fool senior citizens; to combat this ongoing trend, the FBI has named June 15 to be the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which is dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of older adults who experience elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.

In parallel, the FBI compiled a list of schemes that the elderly need to keep an eye for to evade being conned.

Let’s jump right in.

  • Romance scam: Criminals pose as interested romantic partners on social media or dating websites to capitalize on their elderly victims’ desire to find companions.
  • Tech support scam: Criminals pose as technology support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues. The scammers gain remote access to victims’ devices and sensitive information.
  • Grandparent scam: Criminals pose as a relative—usually a child or grandchild—claiming to be in immediate financial need.
  • Government impersonation scam: Criminals pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to provide funds or other payments.
  • Sweepstakes/charity/lottery scam: Criminals claim to work for legitimate charitable organizations to gain victims’ trust. Or they claim their targets have won a foreign lottery or sweepstake, which they can collect for a “fee.”
  • Home repair scam: Criminals appear in person and charge homeowners in advance for home improvement services that they never provide.
  • TV/radio scam: Criminals target potential victims using illegitimate advertisements about legitimate services, such as reverse mortgages or credit repair.
  • Family/caregiver scam: Relatives or acquaintances of the elderly victims take advantage of them or otherwise get their money.
  • Bogus Covid-19-related products and services: During the pandemic, con artists have taken advantage of people’s fears of Covid-19 by attempting to sell senior citizens “coronavirus test kits” in an attempt to collect credit card or banking information. While others falsely advertising products, such as fake drugs, vaccines, and devices, that claim to prevent or cure Covid-19.

How to protect yourself

Protecting one’s self from a scam can be easy to debunk, it just needs a little patience and research; thus, according to the FBI here are the most optimal ways of seeing through the lies and deceitfulness of scammers:

  • Search online for the contact information (name, email, phone number, addresses) and the proposed offer. Other people have likely posted information online about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action. Call the police immediately if you feel there is a danger to yourself or a loved one.
    Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door services offers.
  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
  • Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable anti-virus software and firewalls.
  • Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you. Take precautions to protect your identity if a criminal gains access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts and monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.

The key to unravelling a scam if your loved one has been approached by a con artist is to make them feel comfortable enough to talk about, since most senior citizens feel embarrassed to talk about or report the crime.

Talking about the matter not only helps them understand the matter even more, but also aids local law enforcement to contain any potential damage that may have occurred, or if they’re lucky enough prevent it all together. 

As technological advancements keep emerging, hackers, scammers and the like will always find more sophisticated ways of tricking us, which is why we must remain vigilant regarding our online activities, while constantly educating ourselves and our elderly loved ones to evade these malicious online behaviors.

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Yehia is an investigative journalist and editor with extensive experience in the news industry as well as digital content creation across the board. He strives to bring the human element to his writing.

Cybersecurity

Google funds Linux kernel developers to focus exclusively on security

Inside Telecom Staff

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Linux kernel

Google and the Linux Foundation said Wednesday they are prioritizing funds to underwrite two full-time maintainers for Linux kernel security development, Gustavo Silva, and Nathan Chancellor.

Silva and Chancellor’s exclusive focus is to maintain and improve kernel security and associated initiatives to ensure the world’s most pervasive open-source software project is sustainable for decades to come, a statement from Linux said.

The Linux Foundation’s Open Source Securing Foundation (OpenSSF) and the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH) recently published an open-source contributor survey report that identified a need for additional work on security in open-source software, which includes the massively pervasive Linus operating system.

Linux is fueled by more than 20,000 contributors and, as of August 2020, one million commits. While there are thousands of Linux kernel developers, all of whom take security into consideration as the due course of their work, this contribution from Google to underwrite two full-time Linux security maintainers signals the importance of security in the ongoing sustainability of open-source software.

“At Google, security is always top of mind and we understand the critical role it plays to the sustainability of open-source software,” said Dan Lorenc, Staff Software Engineer,

Chancellor’s work will be focused on triaging and fixing all bugs found with Clang/LLVM compilers while working on establishing continuous integration systems to support this work ongoing.

Once those aims are well-established, he plans to begin adding features and polish to the kernel using these compiler technologies. Chancellor has been working on the Linux kernel for four and a half years.

Two years ago, Chancellor started contributing to mainline Linux under the ClangBuiltLinux project, which is a collaborative effort to get the Linux kernel building with Clang and LLVM compiler tools.

“I hope that more and more people will start to use the LLVM compiler infrastructure project and contribute fixes to it and the kernel – it will go a long way towards improving Linux security for everyone,” said Chancellor, Linux maintainer.

Gustavo Silva’s full-time Linux security work is currently dedicated to eliminating several classes of buffer overflows by transforming all instances of zero-length and one-element arrays into flexible-array members, which is the preferred and least error-prone mechanism to declare such variable-length types.

Additionally, he is actively focusing on fixing bugs before they hit the mainline, while also proactively developing defense mechanisms that cut off whole classes of vulnerabilities. Silva sent his first kernel patch in 2010 and today is an active member of the Kernel Self Protection (KSPP). He is consistently one of the top five most active kernel developers since 2017 with more than 2,000 commits in mainline. Silva’s work has impacted 27 different stable trees, going all the way down to Linux v3.16.

“We are working towards building a high-quality kernel that is reliable, robust and more resistant to attack every time,” said Silva, Linux maintainer. “Through these efforts, we hope people, maintainers in particular, will recognize the importance of adopting changes that will make their code less prone to common errors.”

“Ensuring the security of the Linux kernel is extremely important as it’s a critical part of modern computing and infrastructure. It requires us all to assist in any way we can to ensure that it is sustainably secure,” said David A. Wheeler, the Linux Foundation. “We extend a special thanks to Google for underwriting Gustavo and Nathan’s Linux kernel security development work along with a thank you to all the maintainers, developers and organizations who have made the Linux kernel a collaborative global success.”

Funding Linux kernel security and development is a collaborative effort, supported by the world’s largest companies that depend on the Linux operating system. To support work like this, discussions are taking place in the Securing Critical Projects Working Group inside the OpenSFF.

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About the Linux Foundation

Founded in 2000, the Linux Foundation is supported by more than 1,000 members and is the world’s leading home for collaboration on open-source software, open standards, open data, and open hardware.

Linux Foundation’s projects are critical to the world’s infrastructure including Linux, Kubernetes, Node.js, and more.  The Linux Foundation’s methodology focuses on leveraging best practices and addressing the needs of contributors, users and solution providers to create sustainable models for open collaboration.

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Cybersecurity

UAE Central Bank bolsters cybersecurity with attack simulation

Inside Telecom Staff

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attack simulation

The Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) conducted on Sunday a first-of-its-kind cyberattack simulation exercise designed to test the resilience of the country’s banking sector against cyber threats.

“The exercise affirms CBUAE’s preparedness to prevent or mitigate cyber threats that may cause disruptions to the UAE’s economy and financial stability,” a statement by CBUAE explained.

The exercise was conducted – in collaboration with the UAE Banks Federation (UBF) – under the Central Bank’s mandate to ensure the stability and resilience of the UAE’s financial system through the implementation of sophisticated processes and techniques that can combat the threat of advanced cyberattacks and protect the soundness of the banking system.

During the cyberattack simulation drill, participating banks were exposed to real-time scenarios to assess and apply sector level crisis management strategies.

CBUAE urged banks to bolster their defenses against such attacks and confirmed its commitment to continue the development of its Information technology infrastructure and cybersecurity capabilities in line with the international standard and best practices.

Attacks on financial institutions spiked by a massive 238 percent from the beginning of February to the end of April 2020, as cyber-criminals took advantage of peaks in the COVID-19 news cycle, according to VMware Carbon Black.

According to Accenture, the cost to address and contain cyber-attacks is higher for financial services than any other sector.

CBUAE is responsible for supporting monetary and financial stability and sustaining economic growth in the UAE. It achieves this through supervision, prudent reserve management and the development of a robust financial infrastructure and policies in line with international best practices.

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Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity trends in 2021: Learning from a harsh year

Yehia El Amine

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cybersecurity trends

This year has been unlike any other in living memory, barely any aspects of our lives have been spared by the impact of the worst public health crisis in decades.

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic shifted the way we lead our day-to-day, laying bare to our collective fragility, while greatly heightening our sense of uncertainty. The effects of which will have a long-lasting aftertaste of how our reality has changed, as well as in the unforeseeable future.

The seismic shift caused by the pandemic, also fueled our embrace of technology by increasing our reliance on connectivity and pushing digital transformation into overdrive. Yet, with this reliance on the digital realm, comes risks and potential threats looking to take advantage of the situation.

Reports and breaking news stories throughout the year proved that cybercriminals were quick to adapt to this new norm, exploiting the pandemic and remote working circumstances to profit.

While most of the cybersecurity trends that emerged throughout the year will likely spill over into 2021, there is no definitive way to pinpoint how the cybersecurity landscape will look like a year from now.

However, by monitoring the current events that shaped this year, experts can foresee the areas that will be affected by cyberattacks, as well as the practices that will persist.

Let’s jump right in.

1- Remote workers will remain targeted

Remote workers are the golden nugget of cybercriminals far and wide, which is why they’ll continue being the prime targets for hackers. The reason behind this is due to them operating and using their own devices and Wi-Fi connection to conduct their work.

Home networks aren’t as fortified as their corporate counterparts, at the end of the day, no one has an IT team hanging about in their closet. In parallel, a large number of businesses weren’t properly prepared for the shift to remote work, making homebound workers easier to target.

According to a report published by VMware, a U.S.-based cybersecurity software company, global organizations saw a 148 percent spike in ransomware attacks in March of 2020, just when businesses began to make the shift to remote work.

“Attackers have been using COVID-19 to launch phishing attacks, fake apps/maps, trojans, backdoors, crypto miners, botnets and ransomware,” the report explained.

2- Automation for all the wrong reasons

To deal with the slash in profits, companies have been scrambling to find ways to put security solutions and their remote staff on the same table, signaling the use of hyper automation.

Hyper automation consists of integrating artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and robot process automation (RPA) to automate their processes or any other task.

According to market estimates, artificial intelligence in the cybersecurity market is projected to grow from USD 8.8 billion in 2019 to USD 38.2 billion by 2026 at a CAGR of 23.3 percent.

Hackers have taken note of this and have started to develop their very own software disguised as an AI-automation software. Tricking remote workers to install this fake software will allow cybercriminals to pinpoint areas of defense, while marking vulnerabilities.

Using the data gathered by the software, it gives hackers the know-how to slip past or attack similar defensive software.

This is dangerous in every sense of the word since it allows attackers to subtly slip through the cracks faster and at a much stealthier rate; they’ll know before they attack what they are looking for, what to avoid, and how to escape unnoticed.

3- The rise of 5G

Our online behavior changes each year, with every new emergence of technologies that heavily impact our lives. And as the fifth generation of mobile networks begins to softly rollout internationally, our reliance on cloud-based systems grows.

Both B2B and B2C sectors will soon have the opportunity, and later be mandated, to shift toward 5G data management technology. According to Leftronic, 5G is expected to cover almost 40 percent of the world by 2024 with data transfer speeds of up to 10GB/s.

While there exists a plethora of reasons as to how 5G will better our lives, the same could be said about the potential risks that may accompany it.

High-speed data transfers will equip hackers with the ability to infect data packets and conduct corporate espionage at a much faster and subtle rate. Companies will need to revamp and beef up their cybersecurity teams to maintain a high level of security and surveillance for their sensitive data.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, the cybersecurity talent crunch is expected to create 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2021, up by 350 percent from 1 million positions in 2014.

4- Cloud attacks

While businesses across the globe were slowly migrating their work to the cloud in pre-COVID times, the pandemic acted as a catalyst for the same, as it acted as a notable ally to ensure business continuity across the board.

According to IDC, the global cloud services market spending is projected to reach USD 1 trillion in 2024, at a CAGR of 15.7 percent during the forecast period 2020-24.

Cloud-based security threats, including misconfigured cloud storage, reduced visibility and control, incomplete data deletion, and vulnerable cloud-apps, will continue to disrupt businesses in the future ahead.

5- IoT security concerns

With 5G’s slow ascension to power brings with it a myriad of technological advancements within its entourage, and the hardest hitter among them is the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT is on the rise not only for commercial use, but also on the B2B end, most notably in the industrial sector which has laid the ground for transformations in critical infrastructures such as healthcare, automotive, maritime, shipping, and much more.

While this will help shape and fuel the digital revolution, in parallel, it opens the door for many risks and breaches on the cybersecurity level.

“Not only is more data being shared through the IoT, among many more participants, but more sensitive data is being shared. As a result, the risks are exponentially greater,” a report by Deloitte highlighted.

According to American research and advisory firm Gartner, there will be 25 billion Internet-connected things by 2020, and close to $2 trillion of economic benefit globally. That’s a lot of IoT devices and the biggest question is, can tech companies secure all these objects from threats?

A single compromised node can be leveraged to break into corporate networks with severe consequences. Insecure designs and architectures will result in non-encrypted personal data, hardcoded passwords, software, and firmware updates from unverified sources.

This means every IoT design should start with security. Giant tech firms as well as startups should incorporate security into the initial design process, while adding layers of security to protect people from the cyberattacks vis-à-vis giving them more control over the devices themselves.

6- Data, the new oil

Every single click, swipe, visit, and view is the creation of data, a digital footprint that gets bigger and bigger year-in and year-out translating into a company’s most prized possession; and as they broaden this footprint, hackers will remain resolute in their attempt to breach that data.

Thus, the easiest way to access this sensitive data is through the remote workers operating on weakly-protected home networks. From there, experts foresee the increase in VPN usage as well as additional security measures to protect company data while they work from home.

According to Cisco, since the beginning of the pandemic one of the top policy changes made in organizations has been to increase VPN capacity (59 percent) for remote workers.

7- FinTech under fire

The financial industry is considered one of the most threatened sectors in terms of cybersecurity for obvious reasons. Just take a moment and think back to how many data breaches has happened this year solely on financial institutions.

The reasons behind these breaches are always different, from the rogue employee, to the vigilante hacker, only one person is enough to cause significant damage to a financial corporation’s business.

According to Fortunly, cybersecurity investments in Fintech have grown to $646.2 million in 2020, more than double of what businesses spent on IT in 2019.

Thus, companies need to be wearier regarding their assessment of risks, while putting in place air-tight security reforms that protect not only their business models, but their customers’ sensitive data as well.

Hence, a balanced innovation is needed that promotes the growth of the fintech industry and mitigates the hidden risks of its services.

As the COVID-19 battle seems to be at its end with the creation of several vaccines, the experience of the pandemic should serve as a harsh lesson for decision-makers to make the necessary changes going forward.

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