Hook, line and scammer

As a Technology professional, I am well aware of the dangers of cybercrime, and companies I have worked for have trusted me and my teams to come up with effective strategies and technologies to combat this ever more complex area. However, it is still difficult to explain all the various forms that cybercrime can take and translate that for non-tech people into something they can understand – in business, we must do this so that the risks are taken seriously and we get the budget and support to tackle them.

I have worked with many cyber security specialists who take the route of scary headlines to explain the dangers, quoting attacks that companies have had over the last few years and stating ‘That could be us!’ if they don’t get the support they need. Whilst this IS effective, I wondered if it really gets people to a level of understanding of the challenges and how they can infiltrate their everyday lives. I have tried using analogies to get this understanding across (think ‘driving a car without airbags and someone hits you’!), but that only works for certain people.

So I needed a way to bring this topic to life that non-tech people could relate to and would enjoy learning about… A story. Plus I always felt I had a book in me, but didn’t know what it would be about. They always say, ‘Write about what you know’ and after 35 years in Technology that seemed like the right topic – but I needed a join into that world that people could relate to… which led me to ‘relationships’ – good or bad; short or long; love or hate; we can all relate on some level to human relationships. Add in a sprinkle of death, a bit of romance, a foreign country, some subterfuge and intrigue with some slightly incompetent detectives… and bingo you have the story.

But what could make all these topics interwoven with each other and how would this explain cybercrime? Well, I knew I couldn’t cover all aspects of cybercrime (perhaps I will write more books to do that!), so I focussed on love – or in this case that increasingly popular route to love… Online Dating!

Online Dating has long been a hunting ground for the cybercriminal and I touch on one or two nefarious approaches to conning people in my book as the criminals try to think up the exact scam they want to undertake as they build their ‘business’ – eventually they settle on establishing a fake Online Dating website (unfortunately how they do this in the book is completely possible, cheap and easy!) and they set about trying to con people out of money. This is when they hit a bit of a roadblock and don’t know how to attract people to the website – they overcome this with some simple social engineering…

Social engineering can take many forms, but in this case, it was done via social media sites and looking at people’s interests/hobbies – simply engaging with people by pretending to share their interests and getting them interested in you or in this case learning about their interests to make fake profiles on the dating website that had the same interests – a little bit of money spent on online adverts targeting these people soon produced some likely ‘customers’. The detectives in the story actually used the same method to track down potential victims and get to them before the scammers did, in the hope of getting one step ahead of the scammers. The variety of victims in the book and their reaction when the police approached them was one of the things I wanted to really land – this can happen to ANYONE!

The story also highlights the blast radius of cybercrime – its not just the direct victim that gets impacted, but their family and friends and often innocent bystanders whose identity has been stolen to effect the crime. It also tries to highlight that not all scammers are willing criminals and some are trapped into it by misfortune or bigger criminals.

The biggest challenge for me was making sure the technology and concepts around this topic were available for everyone to consume and understand, whilst enjoying a story and hopefully learning that cybercrime is everywhere and can affect anyone. The ODA is working with genuine Online Dating companies (I don’t think my guys are gonna make the cut!) to raise awareness and put standards and regulation in place to avoid stories like ‘Hook, line and scammer’ becoming true – which, like my story, will hopefully bring happier endings to those seeking love through the Internet.

David is a cockney by birth but was brought up and resides in Diss, Norfolk with his patient wife, Sally. He made his career in technology (linkedin.com/in/david-crawford-13679a), but likes to not be boring and so is always on the lookout to get involved with anything else in his spare time – After hobbies including Woodturning and Bee Keeping, he decided it was time for that one book everyone has inside them to come out – and so it did…

David’s book ‘Hook, Line and Scammer’ is available here – https://amzn.eu/d/2TyZcgQ

Facebook Author page – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100085853898286