Have you ever been a victim of cyber crime? A large number of the western world’s population have. And the most worrying thing of all is that it is now starting to take a new phase. Reporter Claudia Joseph reported that her life had been ‘hacked’ and was shocked by the results, as an online security investigator got all her details in just a few clicks. This person was not just capable of stalking her, but he was also capable of stealing her identity.

She told the Daily Mail, “Paul Vlissidis knows that I am on a pre-Christmas break in Delhi. He can track my every move and even view the pictures I am taking. Thousands of miles away, back in London, Mr Vlissidis is wondering whether to sell my car or pop into my house and have a look around. In the meantime, he sends an email from my address to my boss informing him that I am resigning from my job.

“I don’t know Mr Vlissidis, but he knows just about all there is to know about me, from the financial to the personal. He has access to everything that I have stored on my computer. Every element of my life has been exposed.”

Mr Vlissidis however, was not a hacker. He just happens to be the group technical director of the NCC Group, which has been cleared by GCHQ to discover loopholes in security in Government departments, police forces and many FTSE 100 companies.

This is one of the busiest times of the year for internet shopping, and many people expect to end the season with even more electronic gadgets than before. So Claudia put Mr Vlissidis to the test, to see how vulnerable people really are – and the results are simply shocking.

Not only was he technologically capable of stalking someone, but he could, if he wanted, steal identities from backed up emails online.

“A few years ago, you would back up your phone on your laptop and that was the only place it existed,” says Mr Vlissidis, “But now everybody backs up wirelessly through a ‘cloud’, which makes them much more susceptible. We conducted an enormous amount of business through email and it is available to anybody who hacks into your account. One phishing attack is all it takes. It’s like dominos: if one falls, they all fall.

“I could send emails in your name and log into your mobile phone account and send texts as you. I could buy Christmas presents with your PayPal account; take out credit in your name, even empty your bank account. Identity theft is a real possibility here. Or if you have any enemies, they could remotely erase your phone or laptop.”

Mr Vlissidis explained that the web has now become ‘a stalkers’ paradise’. Hackers can find your flight tickets and itinerary in your emails, traced with “Find My iPhone’’ and then use your Facebook account to work out who you are  staying with and work with.

This is quite frightening as the general public are left in the dark about the consequences of this crime. It is real and it is only when victims realise the consequences of what has happened to them, that they finally realise, just how dangerous the internet really can be.

So how do the fraudsters get their information?

The easiest way they target their victims is by social networking, and using online sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, including other public information, which is widely available online such as the phone directory and electoral roll.

Then once they have the information, hackers are then able to set up a fake Wi-Fi network, which is identical to the real one, and then download all the information onto a laptop. Criminals are able to emulate the legitimate wireless network, like an evil twin. The only solution is to log on when you know the network you are using is secure.’

Hackers also send out phishing emails, and these are getting more and more convincing. Blogs have been created to highlight the type of emails people can receive. The only way to know that it is an attack is to look closely at who sent it. If it looks official go directly to the company, and ask if they know of this person and why they had sent it, particularly when it is the FBI.

However, the best advice is to ignore them, even the ones from PayPal which say that money has been taken from your account. It is false. It will be true however, if you give your details and click on the link they send. It is rooted back to the hacker. Unfortunately many people are unaware of this and they easily fall into their clutches, as thousands is stolen from them.

Police are struggling to cope with demand from victims, and claim that they lack the expertise to track down the gangs behind internet scams, mainly from overseas. It was reported that the Metropolitan Police has resolved just three per cent of the 7,393 reports of online fraud received during 2013.

Security Minister James Brokenshire said to the Mail on Sunday: “The threat of cyber crime is real and growing. And as part of our efforts to protect the UK, we are launching a major new awareness-raising campaign in January to help people use the internet securely and confidently for business, exploration, convenience and recreation. We have already strengthened our enforcement arm with the newly created National Cyber Crime Unit. This will bring law enforcement experts into a single elite unit. This campaign will help close the net on sophisticated cyber criminals and protect the public from identity theft, scams and online fraud.”

A report that came out recently by the National Fraud Authority identified middle-aged, middle-class housewives as suffering the biggest losses to fraud. The reason for this is that they lack knowledge on how the fraud is conducted, and they often act impulsively. More needs to be done to educate people in using the internet, because if this isn’t done, cyber hacking will only get worse, and more and more people will be the next victims of cyber crime.

Akashic Times is the UK’s only online, fully independent not-for-profit weekly newspaper that brings you real news from across the globe.

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