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Getting mugged on the streets might be less likely in Singapore than most other countries, but cybercrime is another story! As a relatively wealthy country, we’re fair game for cybercriminals from all over the world.
Maybe that’s why we faced more phishing and ransomware threats in 2021, as compared to the year before. Online scams are still the #1 cybercrime in the land, indicating that we can be quite gullible.
The government is taking this pretty seriously, as evidenced by the Singapore Cybersecurity Strategy 2021, which sets out their game plan to lower cybercrime.
And no wonder. Because cybercrime makes people and economies bleed money. According to an Accenture study, a single malware attack cost more than 2.6 million USD in 2018, while the cost of a ransomware incident rose to 646,000 USD in 2018.
Some high profile data breach cases of late include the theft of 80,000 customers’ personal data, and personal details of members of a popular rewards programme getting filched. The risk lies in what hackers can do with the data gleaned from these leaks — they can sell the info on the Dark Web, and your data can be used against you in phishing or scams, where you unknowingly provide access to your financial accounts.
But data breaches don’t just happen to organisations — they can happen to individuals like you and me as well. For example, the person impersonating a bank officer seems to know all the information that you usually verify, which builds trust before the actual scam. That’s why we should make sure our personal devices are safe from cyberattacks, too, to minimise any leaks of our personal info.
Not convinced yet? Here’s how much a cybersecurity attack could cost you.
A ransomware attack
Ransomware is a type of malware that gets secretly installed on your computer. Once it’s been installed, it takes your data hostage, and tells you that the only way you can get it back is to pay a ransom to the hackers — be it in cold, hard cash or cryptocurrency. If you don’t comply, they threaten to block, destroy or publish your data.
Personally, we’re most wary about this one, and avoiding a ransomware attack is top priority for us here at MoneySmart as it can be extremely damaging, not just to our pockets, but also to our lives.
Assuming you don’t pay the ransom (you shouldn’t!), you might end up having to buy a new computer or even replace your entire home network if everything gets infected — this could easily cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few Ks. This is all money that could have been better spent elsewhere, or used to generate interest.
To put this into perspective, the cost of a new computer or laptop is about $1,000 for a typical entry level type. But for those who own something more snazzy, such as a MacBook Pro, the cost of a whole new computer is almost $4,000. Now, imagine you need to replace your whole home network — think about the various other devices that could have gotten infected, your family/housemates’ computers, and so on… that’s really a whole lot of cash burned needlessly.
In addition, other costs to you will be time spent trying to remove the ransomware. You might have to cancel events or meetings to deal with this and waste time you could otherwise spend earning money.
Given that the median gross monthly income in Singapore was $4,680 in 2021, and the total number of working days was 250, that’s about $224.64 per day, or about $28 per hour. That figure goes up if you have to cancel events such as an investor meeting, a planned trip, or if you’re in a higher-paying job.
And that’s provided you are successful in removing the threat…otherwise, it’s back to square one where you could have to fork out the cost of a new computer or network. Yikes! And we haven’t even discussed the impact this could have on your reputation, important files that have been lost, even actual digital assets like NFTs, and so on…
You should also protect your devices from getting infected in the first place by making sure your software is updated and patched, and taking the usual precautions like being careful about what links you click on, checking website addresses carefully and opening email attachments with care.
To protect yourself from ransomware, regularly backup your important files on an external hard drive or on cloud storage services so you can go back in time if it gets infected. External hard drives are more secure than cloud drives as they can’t be hacked so long as you remember to disconnect them. Do also make sure that these devices are also clear of viruses — don’t use one from an unknown source that could contain a trojan.
A phishing attack
Phishing involves impersonating a real organisation (like the bank or government) in order to trick the users into revealing personal data.
For instance, hackers might send you an email that looks like it’s from your bank, with a link to a fake website in a bid to get you to reveal your internet banking or credit card details. They might also give you a call, impersonating a bank officer, who seems to have all your information on hand while asking you to verify your full name, mobile number, last 4 digits of your NRIC and even key details such as your mother’s maiden name, email address and so on… sounds pretty usual, right? Especially if you are a regular user of the bank or financial service.
This information is gleaned from data leaks but can seem so convincing, even to the most cautious of people. By using a phone number mask, they might even fool even the most cautious of people. Scamming is basically a huge operation, as this CNA article details.
Once the hackers gain access to your personal details, they can do any number of things with it — such as log into your bank account and drain all your money.
As such, the potential losses of victims of phishing can be astronomical. One OCBC customer lost his life savings totalling $500,000 after clicking on a phishing link.
To protect yourself from phishing, you should be very suspicious of any emails you receive and never click on links or attachments before verifying that they lead to a legit website — even if they come from a friend! That friend could be a compromised party as well.
Scrutinise URLs and email addresses for discrepancies vis a vis the official websites and email addresses, and look out for dead giveaways like grammatical, spelling errors and odd placement of logos.
A botnet attack
A botnet attack can happen to you when you have multiple devices on one network. The botnet installs malware on each device. Gaining control over multiple devices enables the hackers to use your devices to launch large-scale attacks to steal your personal data.
Botnet attacks can really wreak havoc due to their scale. If you have lots of devices connected to your network, such as smart household appliances, tablets and smartphones, it could be even more costly and time consuming to rectify the issue. Similar to that of the ransomware attack, it could cost anything from hundreds of dollars to well over thousands, not including the opportunity cost of your time.
And the real damage caused by botnet attacks depends on what the hackers are trying to do in gaining control over your devices. Even as “mindless minions”, there’s always the possibility you could also be implicated as part of the crime. Otherwise, it could make your devices run slower, so there’s also much time wasted.
To prevent botnet attacks, make sure your software is always up to date, monitor your network for suspicious activity, and pay close attention if there are failed login attempts to any of your accounts or devices.
Don’t risk it: Get cybersecurity protection to avoid unnecessary costs
For greater peace of mind, you should get a cybersecurity protection system that can help you avoid the unnecessary costs of falling prey to cybercrime.
ViewQwest is an internet service provider that believes that it is essential to protect customers, in the simplest way possible — especially kids and the elderly who are most vulnerable to cyber threats. ViewQwest does this by embedding network security service, SecureNet, in its home broadband to deter known and unknown cyber threats.
ViewQwest’s SecureNet@Home is an advanced cybersecurity service in collaboration with Palo Alto Networks, a leading and trusted global cyber security provider worldwide. Powered by a next-generation firewall and a state-of-the-art web filtering system, it’ll keep home broadband users like you safe from known and unknown cyber threats such as ransomware, phishing and botnet attacks. Think of it as an anti-virus software that is built into your internet connection.
SecureNet enables you to stay protected from cyber threats without having to download an application like anti-virus software or hook up an additional device to keep you safe from threats on your ViewQwest network*. As long as you are connected to your ViewQwest Home WiFi, you are safe!
*Do install your own antivirus software to be extra-safe as SecureNet only blocks network threats in the home. Outside the home, users are still at risk.
When you sign up for a broadband plan with ViewQwest, you get 3 months of SecureNet@Home for free, and only $5.99/month subsequently — a small price to pay compared to what you could potentially lose to cybercrime!
ViewQwest offers secure broadband connections at blazing speeds too! There are two plans to choose from:
- No Router Plan — Fuss-free plan that doesn’t require you to purchase a router, perfect if you already have one that is not “locked” to any telco. Great if you’re price conscious and just need a fast network.
- Mesh Router Plans — All Mesh plans feature the latest WiFi 6 mesh systems on the market. This enables you to enjoy up to 3x faster speeds and support 4x more devices on WiFi 6 versus a WiFi 5 router connection.
Thanks to ViewQwest’s October sale, you can sign up for a 1GBPS Home Broadband plan for a low starting price of just $28.99 per month. You also enjoy a waiver of the NetLink Trust (NLT) fee of $56.71.
Sign up for a plan now and pay $0 activation fees and $0 admin fees with promo code 5YTECHSHOW.