Fear of the Internet: Are the concerns justified?

A current survey by the digital association Bitkom shows that the fear of surfing the net is growing.

Fear of the Internet: Are the concerns justified?

A current survey by the digital association Bitkom shows that the fear of surfing the net is growing. The reasons for this are varied, but real: According to a report by the US Financial Crimes Agency, American banks processed ransomware ransom transfers totaling $1.2 billion in 2021 alone. In an interview with the news agency spot on news, Thorsten Urbanski, IT security expert at the software company ESET, explains what users can do to feel safer online.

According to the representative Bitkom survey, only 15 percent of Internet users in Germany feel "very safe" when surfing the web. The majority of citizens feel differently: A little more than half (52 percent) of the population feels rather (28 percent) or very insecure (24 percent). The concern is not unfounded, explains IT security expert Urbanski: "Online crime is a global big business in which more money is made than in the global drug trade. Professional cyber gangs operate here that have been in the business for years and companies are just as interested Target like private individuals."

In particular, one's own e-mail inbox is still the "number one gateway," says Urbanski. For the perpetrators who send masses of phishing and spam emails, a success rate of just 0.1 percent is lucrative. Because these e-mails are no longer always recognizable at first glance, the expert advises: "Under no circumstances should you click on the links, but instead log in manually directly on the page and, if necessary, write an e-mail to the respective operator. They often provide information on theirs sides already about the current campaign against their customers."

The same applies to emails or fake shops that offer astronomical discounts or products at unrealistically low prices. The criminals no longer only lure with smartphones or branded clothing, but are adapting to the current situation, Urbanski explains: "Since the start of the Ukraine war and the increase in gas prices and pallets, we have been observing that firewood and pallets are too completely utopian cheap prices. This is almost always an online scam."

Credit card fraud and identity theft are also lucrative for organized crime. The theft of personal data in particular quickly leads to serious consequences, explains Urbanski: "Because just a little personal data is enough to conclude mobile phone contracts and insurance policies under false names and to let your own Schufa scoring plummet."

In order to protect yourself effectively, Urbanski recommends keeping the operating systems on your end devices "up to date" at all times and also protecting yourself with professional security software. You should never reply to spam and phishing emails, because even if the scam does not succeed, the attackers will find out that the email address is actively used. It is also advisable not to give your real date of birth on publicly visible social media platforms. Anyone who wants to know whether their personal data has already been lost in major data thefts can check this on free websites such as "have I been pwned".

If it turns out that you have become a victim of identity theft, Urbanski recommends the following steps: "Be sure to file a criminal complaint with the police and report the identity theft to the Schufa and your bank. If money has already been debited from the account, leave the affected accounts and Block credit cards immediately." Those affected should also change the passwords of the accounts immediately and have a new current account issued in order to completely avoid transactions via the corresponding bank account. In the meantime, numerous fake shops can also be exposed, for example via the consumer advice center's free search engine. Simply copy the shop's URL into the search bar and wait for the result.

Despite all these potential dangers, users shouldn't bury their heads in the sand, says Urbanski. After all, anyone who pays attention to their personal security online will also be able to enjoy the advantages of the Internet, from our joint networking and uncomplicated shopping to the new home office normality. The Bitkom survey also shows that the majority of the population has understood this: 70 percent of Germans see themselves as responsible for protecting themselves online.