The 2010 Australian Federal election campaign is generating a huge level of online activity. The Internet is now the way to follow the election, whether it’s through social media sites or online news sources. The rise of social networking has become a key influence in voting trends, with candidates across the political spectrum learning how to tweet, respond to a poke and live and die by the worm.
It’s worth remembering that while following the election using new media, you should be alert to the issues you open yourself to while online. In recent months Facebook and Twitter have been plagued by a number of phishing and malware attacks, leaving many users inadvertently giving strangers their private data.
As the election hype continues, potential risks become more apparent as hackers attempt to use the campaign as an excuse to gain extra information about you by putting malicious links on legitimate sites or creating bogus sites to gather personal information.
Young Australians are perhaps particularly at risk with research released in July showing 18–24 year olds are the most affected by online ID fraud. With the recent high profile push to ensure young, first-time voters enrolled for the 2010 election, and Google’s Student Voice invitation to 15 to 17 year-old students across Australia to vote in a simulated online election, scammers and malware cyber criminals have been provided with another hot topic with which to hit the unsuspecting .
Lloyd Borrett, Security Evangelist for AVG (AU/NZ) explains how it’s done: “Cyber criminals capitalise on the need for us to find the latest news and we often click through without thinking. Scammers are capable of doing more than just offering you a new rich friend from Nigeria. They are clever, targeted and current – and they are after your money or your identity.
“They use Google Trends and similar tools to poison the search results related to a topic. During the earthquake which devastated China in April 2010, the search engine optimisation (SEO) methods used by the bad guys were so effective that 18 of the top 20 searches were malicious. Thus they were able to fraudulently siphon donations meant for disaster relief.”
Borrett’s advice is to ignore and delete unsolicited requests from your ‘local candidate’ wanting your support during the last weeks of the election campaign or requesting personal information supposedly clarifying enrolment details: “Just don’t fall for it. No legitimate organisation will ever request personal or password information over the phone or via email.”
For added protection when searching and downloading:
- Make sure you practice safe surfing. AVG LinkScanner® is a free web tool for both PCs and Macs that can identify web-based threats in real-time and let you know if a page or link is poisoned when your web browser tries to load the web page.
- Stop and think before you download or install anything. If you ever have to install a viewer to watch a video, something is probably not right. Go to the video player application’s official web site and download the application there. Never download through a link.
- Make sure your anti-virus and security software is up to date. If you don’t have anti-virus and anti-spyware software, you can download AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition at www.avgfree.com.au.
- Finally, be careful what applications you agree to install. There are a million people developing applications, particularly with the growing market for iPhone and iPad apps, and even Facebook applications. Something tells me they are not all good guys.
You can keep an eye on the scams and viral attacks doing the rounds by checking the Australian Government web site SCAMwatch (www.scamwatch.gov.au) which contains more advice to help you recognise, report and protect yourself from scams. You can also sign up for its free SCAMwatch email alerts.
The government-operated Stay Smart Online site provides lots of helpful tips for personal and business smart online use, guides for parents and an alert service about the latest online threats and vulnerabilities within the Australian context.
Remember, ignore scams or report them to the Australian Communications and Media Authority SPAM SMS service on 0429 999 888, or by sending an email to [email protected], or phone 1800 880 176.
AVG (AU/NZ) has a comprehensive range of security tips for home and business users on its web site at www.avg.com.au/resources/security-tips/