We must guard against online criminals

cybercrime and fraud

Kenya is among the top 10 African countries as regards incidence of cybercrime.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Of late, there has been a worrying rise in the number of Facebook accounts being hacked, with cybercriminals exploiting the platform to extort money from unsuspecting users. This alarming trend raises questions about the security vulnerabilities inherent in our digital landscape, particularly in relation to the widespread availability of public Wi-Fi networks.

As governments increasingly promote the provision of public Wi-Fi access, they are inadvertently creating a breeding ground for cybercrime, ultimately compromising users' personal information and online safety.

Unlike private networks, which are typically secured with encryption and authentication measures, public Wi-Fi networks often lack adequate security protocols, making them prime targets for hackers. Cybercriminals exploit these vulnerabilities to intercept sensitive data transmitted over the network, including login credentials, personal information and financial details.

One of the main ways hackers exploit public Wi-Fi networks is through man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, where the hacker intercepts communications between a user's device and the intended target, allowing them to eavesdrop on sensitive information. With access to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks, hackers can easily use MITM attacks to gain unauthorised access to users' Facebook accounts.

The proliferation of public Wi-Fi networks have exacerbated the problem of phishing attacks, which involves tricking people into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial details, by posing as legitimate organisations or websites.

To mitigate the risks associated with public Wi-Fi networks, several strategies must be employed.

We should use virtual private networks (VPNs) which encrypt Internet traffic, providing a secure tunnel for data transmission and shielding users from prying eyes. Before connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, users should verify its legitimacy and ensure that it is provided by a trusted source.

Avoid connecting to unsecured or unfamiliar networks as they can be compromised by hackers. We should enable two-factor authentication (2FA), which adds an extra layer of security to online accounts by requiring users to provide two forms of verification before gaining access. We must remain vigilant against phishing attempts.

Users should scrutinise URLs to verify the authenticity of websites and avoid clicking on suspicious links or attachments.

We should update software and security patches regularly. Keeping devices and software up-to-date with the latest security patches is essential to mitigate vulnerabilities. Users should regularly install updates for their operating systems, web browsers and security software.

- Andrew Walyaula, Nairob