Viewpoint: Know hacks of Internet scams

Linda Wilkins

Linda Wilkins
Linda Wilkins
By Linda Wilkins

You go to a coffee shop, order your favorite latte and get a nice seat in a booth by a window. You whip out your laptop and look to see if there’s free Wi-Fi available. Hooray, there is Wi-Fi available. You click through the agreement as fast as possible, wanting to check the latest posts on Facebook. Little do you know that you’ve just signed away your firstborn child.

This is what happened during a research project conducted in June in London. The Cyber Security Research Institute organized the experiment to examine the risks of using a public Wi-Fi network.

The experiment included a promise to provide network access to users as long as they agreed to the terms and conditions, according to Time Inc. Network. The agreement included a “Herod Clause,” which stated that the user would receive free Wi-Fi if they agreed to give their oldest child “for the duration of eternity.”

In a rather funny gesture, the Finnish security firm F-Secure, the experiment’s sponsor, stated that it would not enforce the clause and would return all children to their parents.

This idea is ingenious.

What a great way to show people they need to be more aware of what they’re agreeing to when it comes to public Wi-Fi.

With all the scams that people receive by email or online, people should be more aware of Internet security. Just the other day I received an email from a supposed Nigerian prince who claimed to need money to escape a political situation. Of course, I just deleted the email and went on with my life, but how many people out there are walking into scams without knowing?

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which catalogs and researches Internet crime, there were 262,813 complaints of a potential scam in 2013. Of those, 45.5 percent reported a financial loss.

Complaints from people aged 20-29 make up 18.3 percent of the total complaints. The financial losses from just these complaints alone $65,763,945.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center also documents where these complaints originate. Texas has the third highest number of these complaints at 6.74 percent, behind California at 12.13 percent and Florida with 7.45 percent.

While some scams are easy to spot, some are not. In the spring, Baylor Information Technology Services reported that scams were on the rise on Baylor campus.

One of the biggest problems ITS cited was that tech-users were unaware of potential scams.

Scammers know people aren’t falling for the Nigerian prince scam anymore. Instead, they go out of their way to make their scams more complex. While these scammers really could be doing something more beneficial to society, it’s up to us to know the latest scams so we don’t fall victim to them.

This includes reading through the terms and conditions of free Wi-Fi. The clause in the London experiment would not be enforced in a court of law, but what if the clause had asked for something the law would support?

Whether it’s on your laptop, phone or tablet, security is crucial. If you sign into a public Wi-Fi network, you could be giving people access to your information – passwords, security question answers, etc. USA Today reported that the chances of us being hacked on a public network exceeds the possibilities of being burglarized at home.

Even using Facebook or checking emails while using public Wi-Fi can allow hackers access to passwords. From the information they get, hackers can steal your identity.

One thing that we can use to defend against the risks of using public Wi-Fi is to immediately close out of a program if a message pops up declaring the security certificate is invalid. Don’t ignore it and continue scrolling through BuzzFeed.

Don’t be a victim of Internet scams. Hackers are smart, but we can try to be smarter by being aware.

Linda Wilkins is a senior journalism and religion double major from Tyrone, Ga. She is the editor-in-chief for the Lariat.