The good people behind NetSafe must surely find themselves having to find variations on the phrase, "No, seriously ..."
Beware naked online chat sessions, they say.
You can end up being blackmailed by those who have recorded your contribution and threaten to take it out of context, so to speak, by sending it to your friends, family and employers.
Then there's this warning: be assured the real police won't freeze your computer, accuse you of having downloaded illegal music or software files, or child pornography, and demand you pay a "fine" to unfreeze it.
On the face of it, warnings such as this might seem necessary only for the benefit of extraordinarily naive people, but those of us who wouldn't be caught out by such cloddish attempts to extort money, however much time we may spend downloading illegal music in the nude, should remind ourselves that probably the single most naive thing we can do is neglect to keep our software updated.
Yes. Now tell the truth and shame the devil. Exactly how diligent about that are we?
A lot of the wrongdoers out there are considerably more adept than Nigerian scammers, whose misspellings are such entertainment to us all. Updates are a crucial protection. Common sense, alone, doesn't suffice.
NetSafe says New Zealanders have reported losing $4.4 million to internet scams during the past year.
On the face of it, this amount, from 562 reported frauds, is four times the damage from the year before. Improved reporting rates no doubt distort this figure, but the safety group of good repute reports that cyber criminals are increasingly well organised and resourceful.
Although its executive director, Martin Coker, says the crooks are always devising new threats and looking for new weaknesses to exploit in computers and mobile devices, it is also true that they are often concentrating on old weaknesses in the human users.
Loneliness and horniness spring to mind, given that $1.3m of last year's total losses were from dating and romance scams. Good old gullible greed also features, with $1.5m lost to inheritance and government grant-type scams, where the victim parts with their own money so they can receive an upcoming windfall.
If anything, the generic defences might seem tediously familiar: update everything, use strong passwords, a secure wireless network, back up your files, and - bumpersticker stuff though it is - think before you click.
Not all the smarts lie with the baddies. The NetSafe people are themselves inventive types.
Cutely so, in some cases. A while ago, to emphasise the importance of having strong passwords, and bearing in mind that the best passwords are long- at least 15 characters - they hit upon asking people at Taumatawhakatangihangakoauarotamateapokaiwhenuakitahatahu their views.
In their guide to phishing, they replicated the classic fish-and-chip shop posters.
Rather more significantly, a few months ago, they launched Comic Creator, which allows children to build their own comic strips, using professionally drawn characters, while learning safe online practices.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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