How to Beat Cybercriminals at Their Own Game, Part I

by Justin Splitter, Casey Research:

Justin's note: Over the next two days, I’m sharing a special interview that features Doug Casey and his colleagues on the latest crime wave that’s sweeping the globe.

Below, you’ll hear from John Hunt, an MD and coauthor with Doug of Speculator and Drug Lord, and Durk Pearson, bestselling author and former rocket scientist and aerospace physicist. They recently sat down with Doug to share their best tips on how to protect yourself against the growing cyber-threat.

I think you’ll find their ideas interesting and timely…

John: Equifax hacks, Russian hacks, and political hacks are all competing with the Kardashians for primetime news reports. Let’s focus on something that might actually matter to each of us and that we can do something about: our own personal cybersecurity.

Durk: Computer security is a lot more important than most people realize. Absent precautions, it’s like if you had a stack of $100 bills and left it on the sidewalk in front of your house. If someone happens to stroll through your neighborhood, he can just pick them up.

Likewise, most people have no computer defenses at all. You have more than $100 bills in that computer. You have your future money too, and your credit.

But you can become resistant to this. It’s not an impossible task. Remember the old story? You don’t have to run faster than the bear. You just have to run faster than the other guy. And that is surprisingly simple.

John: So what do you advise that everyone should do now?

Durk: First know that if you live in a gated residential community, you have a very low chance of being robbed. But the internet is as if everyone lives in Watts in the 1960s, or South Chicago now.

John: You have to build your gates and walls.

Durk: Right. Now, you don’t have to be a perfectly hard target. There is no such thing as a perfectly hard target. The CIA got hacked for a lot of their extremely dangerous hacking tools which are now out in the public domain. If the CIA can get hacked, believe me you can get hacked too.

On the other hand, all you have to do is make yourself a much harder target than the value of what people can get out of you and you’re going to be left alone. They’re going to move on to somebody else who isn’t as tough. Which is most everybody.

John: Why are some of the phishing scams so blatantly stupid? Like a Craigslist price of $2,307 for a 2013 BMW. It’s obvious to anyone.

Durk: “Oh gee, I’m a Nigerian prince and I want to move $50 million to America and I’ll give you half of it if you help me.” Why are people trying a scam that’s so stupidly obvious?

The answer is very simple: These are competent and professional fraudsters. If somebody falls for the Nigerian prince thing, then they’ll be stupid enough to give the fraudsters their Social Security number, their bank account number, and their password.

With the Nigerian prince scam, the fraudsters get rid of the 99% of the people that aren’t that stupid right away.

John: Ah. The more inane the fraud pitch is, the better the fraudsters target their market to the stupid. Doug, what’s your definition of stupidity again?

Doug: Stupidity, like intelligence, comes in a number of flavors. The most common definition of stupidity is “of low intelligence” – but that’s rather circular, like saying “slow” means “not very fast.”

I like to define “stupid” as the ability to see the immediate and direct consequences of actions, but the inability to see the delayed and indirect consequences.

Like most criminals, black-hat hackers never see the long-term consequences – like being hunted, being held in contempt by most of society, and probably landing in jail. Or indirect consequences – like destroying their self-respect. Among other things.

An even better definition of stupidity, applicable both to those who respond to the Nigerian prince scam as well as the Nigerian Prince himself, is “an unwitting tendency towards self-destruction.”

Even when criminals score high on IQ tests, they still fit this definition. So while computer criminals are undoubtedly smarter than street criminals, they’re still rather stupid in very important ways.

Durk: It’s relatively easy to protect yourself from being financially harmed in a hack.

The first rule here is, don’t let a million different companies have your credit card number. Almost every company is perfectly willing to deal with a debit card rather than a credit card. If you keep a small amount of spending money in a debit card account, then that’s the most you can lose. And if it’s not your fault, you’re probably going to be made good.

Second, you use encrypted wire transfers with your bank to make deposits. You see that little padlock up on the address line on your browser that says https rather than http? That’s an encrypted link.

Just make sure that you or your browser entered your bank’s internet URL. Don’t click on an email link that appears to have come from your bank, because it may be a fraudulent phishing email that takes you to a URL with an https connection and a padlock that is NOT really your bank but sure looks exactly like your bank’s internet page and likely will have a confusingly similar URL!

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