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Cyberhygiene Requires Critical Thinking

At his farewell speech in August outgoing, Telstra CEO Andy Penn mentioned that the cyber threat has never been as serious as the present. He mentioned the deteriorating geopolitical situation and the big shift in how criminals operate in the cyber domain.

One thing is for sure is that in order to enjoy all the positives resulting from the digital economy, we need to be far more vigilant about the barrage of information that we are receiving and/or have access to.

As we are seeing all around us, there are plenty of people, organizations and even governments that are more than eager to (mis)use the digital media for their own self-interest, and that includes misinformation, lies, half-truth, scamming, hacking, phishing and so on they are more than happy to use these tools in advertising, politics, ideologies and conspiracies.

For too long, we have been used to situations where truth was the norm, sure all of the above misbehaviors were there as well, but at a significantly lower scale. Generally, we could trust our politicians, business leaders and the media.

Since social media, this has changed significantly, and we now, as societies, have to learn to be far more critical in our thinking. While social media cause emotional reactions in us, to which we instantly respond and/or indicate that we like it or not, we need to use reason and perhaps pause before we instantly react. Often, we do get an inkling that something might not be true, a gutfeel. If that is the case, pause and check it out.

This brings me to an email I recently receive from Dataprot. They claim to help people and organizations learn the ins and outs of another part of cyberhygiene.

They published an interesting guide on how to look up unknown phone numbers since many of us have ended up in situations where we got calls from numbers that we don’t recognize.

They are providing some interesting tips.

Google any unknown phone number (mobile, fixed, toll-free) before calling them back. Type in all the details you have and use quotation marks to make sure the term you’re looking for is searched as a phrase. You’ll get plenty of hits that match your search if it’s a legitimate business. If you end up with too many links to 800notes, who-called.us, WhoCallsMe, or similar websites, this could indicate that the phone number belongs to a scammer.

Social networks have millions of active users who share information every day. Try to look up phone numbers on social media sites. Type the phone number into the site’s search bar and see what comes back. Knowing the number might help you trace the owner—provided they haven’t removed it or set their profile to private.

There are also people search apps and websites (e.g., TruePeopleSearch). They can provide insight into many more details than just someone’s name and phone number. You can find addresses, relatives, associates, and even criminal records. You can also check what info they have on you and, if needed, take action to change or delete the info.

Many online White Pages directories also look up reverse telephone. However, searching for the person behind a prepaid cell phone number can be tricky, as prepaid SIM cards can be purchased anywhere without providing any personal information. Due to privacy concerns, some countries, including Australia and the UK, have restricted the reverse phone number lookup.

Looking up international numbers is trickier. There are websites that offer such services. Insert the number you’re looking for with ‘+’ before the number. Unfortunately, you almost certainly end up with only the country code or the area—and not the caller’s name. Dataprot tested Comfi international reverse phone their lookups provided the country and the network provider, as well as city or exchange location. SearchYellowDirectory as they also provided instructions and links on how to look up the number within the particular country’s phone directory.

People worried about their safety and who want to hide their browsing history and protect privacy while searching for people and their phone numbers, are advised to find a good VPN service before starting the online research. Dataprot also provides some details on such services.

Finally, looking up old phone numbers. Amazingly Dataprot advices to use Ancestry. It’s the largest genealogy company in the world, and its website is filled with genealogical, historical records, and indeed also telephone directories.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located here.

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