Cons and conmen have existed since the dawn of time. Even before the concept of money existed, it is plausible to think that a conniving scammer might have tricked other people into giving them their hard-earned food, for example.
Like anything else, however, conmen had to upgrade with the times, lest they wanted to die with the old ways. Thankfully for them but unfortunately for everyone else, the digital age has made it incredibly easy to be a scammer.
While sci-fi stories and wishful thinkers might believe that the digital world would have been easier to control, as far as security is concerned, the truth is not like that at all. Scammers of today tend to prey on victims who are not very knowledgeable about online security and the risks of the Internet, victims which may well represent the majority of digital users.
Cracking such an issue requires an attack from multiple sides as well as a deep understanding of the way scammers work. To help with the latter, Google decided to conduct a study which analyzed online black markets in order to find out which scamming methods are the most effective.
According to Google’s analysis, which included a year’s worth of data – from March 2016 to March 2017 – the dubious honor of most effective scam belongs to phishing.
Phishing is a huge issue because it gives attackers access to someone’s online account, which in turn pretty much gives them access to an entire identity. As such, Google believes that phishing is the greatest threat to online security.
Keyloggers come in second but the study is clear on the difference between the two, with the authors commenting that “the threat posed by credential leaks and phishing is orders of magnitude larger than keyloggers at present”.
Companies like Google are becoming better at intercepting such attacks and preventing scammers from using stolen information through various methods. For instance, Google will automatically block access to your account if the login attempt comes from a completely different part of the world while you are currently connected to another with no indication that you have actually travelled there.
Unfortunately, online scammers and attackers are also becoming more sophisticated, opting to steal additional information rather than just a username and password so that they can bypass such restrictions.
The solutions to such problems are unfortunately not very well-known outside of the tech-minded community. For instance, two-factor authentication is an incredibly efficient and easy way to protect an online account yet very few users will willingly activate such systems.