Even Your Gmail Is Vulnerable to Hackers

Even Your Gmail Is Vulnerable to Hackers

HAMILTON – University of Waikato student, Gwen Lyon, panicked when she had an influx of messages from family and friends asking her about a Google Doc they had received from her via email. As it turned out, Gwen’s Gmail account had been hacked.

Cybercrimes like hacking are big business. In July this year, victims reported 645 incidents to internet safety organisation NetSafe. These reports represent $2.5 million taken by cybercriminals, but this may be just the tip of the iceberg as many crimes remain unreported for various reasons including embarrassment and lack of knowledge about how to do so.

Gwen found it difficult to know what was going on or what to do about it: “I got a notification on my phone saying that I had been logged in on a different device than usual and at the time I was on my own laptop, so I thought how is this possible?”

She could see that someone located in Otago had logged onto her Gmail account and sent out an email attached with a Google Doc. The email prompted its recipients to enter their details and it is unknown what their details were used for.

“The email was sent to every single person who I had ever sent an email to. I had people waiting for documents from me, and they thought it was the one they were waiting for,” says Gwen.

Gwen then had many people, some of who she had only sent an email to once, contact her as they thought the email looked suspicious.

“Someone forwarded it to me and I said that’s definitely not me, that’s not right. I had a bit of a panic and went through trying to tell people not to open it,” says Gwen.

One of those who received the email from Gwen was her friend, Hannah Mooney, who happens to be working on a campaign, Operation Report-It, which aims to encourage victims of cybercrime to report incidents like this.

“I didn’t know [reporting] was an option. I think reporting it would’ve been a great idea, purely because I felt very alone and I didn’t know what to do or what was happening to all my personal information,” says Gwen.

This has not put Gwen off from using the Internet; however, she feels more confident about what to do if she ever finds herself in a similar situation.

“I’m more conscious about what places on the Internet I sign up to and what passwords I use. We can’t avoid the Internet unfortunately. I’ll definitely report it next time.”

Operation Report-It directs New Zealand internet users to the NetSafe website where they can report online scams and fraud, privacy breaches, online trading complaints, computer system attacks and harmful content. NetSafe evaluates and responds to online incidents and escalates these where required.

By reporting an online incident to NetSafe it provides NetSafe with a channel to identify emerging incident patterns and help strengthen awareness raising activities designed to help New Zealand internet users confidently access digital opportunities and prevent online harm.

Gwen has since reported the incident via the Operation Report-It website


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