Hooked by the phish­ers

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - LINDA SILMALIS CHIEF RE­PORTER

SAMEA Maakrun only re­alised she was the vic­tim of cy­ber­crime when she re­turned from her hon­ey­moon in the Mal­dives to get a call from a wine com­pany, con­firm­ing her “pur­chase” of $6500 of co­gnac.

Ms Maakrun, a skin­care busi­ness owner from Mi­randa, im­me­di­ately tried to log in to her ac­counts only to find her pass­words no longer worked.

She im­me­di­ately called both of her banks, West­pac and St Ge­orge, who each gave her tem­po­rary ac­cess. Her worst fears were con­firmed — more than $130,000 had gone from both her bank and Pay­pal ac­counts, with trans­ac­tions of around $25,000 each made to off­shore ac­counts. But the night­mare was just begin­ning.

“The wine mer­chant said he had my pass­port and credit card de­tails, which I be­lieve had been ac­cessed from my email ac­count af­ter I used them to book my ho­tel in the Mal­dives,” Ms Maakrun said.

“I went to the po­lice but they said there was noth­ing they could do.

“I then found that my phone had also been di­verted. It got to a point where I had to put my busi­ness on hold be­cause I couldn’t op­er­ate. I felt like I was the crim­i­nal.”

Almost five months later and mul­ti­ple phone calls to the po­lice and the banks, Ms Maakrun was re­funded her money, although the per­pe­tra- tors were never found. The Sasy n Savy busi­ness owner has linked her cy­ber­crime at­tack to four men pos­ing as po­ten­tial clients who vis­ited her of­fice a few days be­fore her hon­ey­moon last July. She be­lieves they went as far as “bug­ging” her of­fice.

An of­fice of the NSW Small Busi­ness Com­mis­sioner sur­vey to be re­leased to­day shows Ms Maakrun is one of hun­dreds of small busi­ness own­ers who have been the vic­tim of a cy­ber­crime at­tack.

The sur­vey of 1400 small and medium sized busi­nesses also re­vealed around half of the com­pa­nies felt their lim- ited on­line pres­ence — a busi­ness web­site with con­tact de­tails and so­cial me­dia — meant they felt less ex­posed to cy­ber­crime.

But NSW Small Busi­ness Com­mis­sioner Robyn Hobbs warned this was not the case.

“Do­ing busi­ness on­line can open up huge op­por­tu­ni­ties but small busi­nesses need to take full ac­count of the risks. For ex­am­ple, some­thing as sim­ple as us­ing email ev­ery day or tak­ing a phone call can present a big cy­ber se­cu­rity risk to any busi­ness,” she said.

“Around half of cy­ber se­cu­rity in­ci­dents tar­get small busi­nesses and almost 60 per cent of cy­ber­crime im­pacts small and medium-sized busi­nesses.”

Ms Hobbs urged busi­ness to man­age cy­ber risks by ed­u­cat­ing staff, con­tin­u­ously up­dat­ing soft­ware, us­ing two-fac­tor iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for emails and pay­ments and en­crypt­ing im­por­tant cus­tomer files.

Ms Maakrun said she has since had her of­fice de­bugged, in­stalled se­cu­rity and de­ployed high-level se­cu­rity on her servers, which hides her IP ad­dress.

She also urged small busi­ness own­ers to re-eval­u­ate their se­cu­rity to avoid be­com­ing em­broiled in a sim­i­lar “night­mare”.

Samea Maakrun.

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