How to Steal a House from Your Computer

Buying your first property is hard. Anyone that says otherwise is wrong — or funded by too much debt. Rising property prices makes it even more difficult. For first homebuyers it’s a nightmare scenario.

First, you have to save a huge deposit to even start looking.

The median house price in Melbourne is now $718,000. That means you need a $71,800 deposit to even get in the door. Add stamp duty and fees and the total jumps to $111,433.

How many kids in their 20s do you know with over $100K? Seriously…any? If you do know any, are they real people?

The thing is, by the time you save that much prices have gone up again. Or you end up at an auction where 50 other people — with too much debt — and they outbid you.

The system is stuffed. For a first homebuyer it’s scary, hard, and worrying.

It’s easy to see how elated first homebuyer gets when they finally get their first house.

Can you imagine the devastation if it all went belly up? Not because the seller might pull out. Not because the house might burn down. Not even if interest rates begin to sharply rise. Imagine the devastation if it was because someone stole the house.

How to steal a house

How do you steal a house, you might ask?

Well what if someone ripped your $71,800 deposit from under your feet?

Imagine if a cyber attacker stole your deposit money. Effectively stealing your house and your dreams.

Imagine the pain you’d go through. Imagine how hard it would be when someone else buys the house and moves in.

These aren’t hypotheticals by the way. This is a real story.

Here in the UK this scenario happened to Sarah and Richie Tough. Cyber attackers played them and made off with their home deposit.

The amount stolen from the Tough’s wasn’t $71,800. These attackers stole £45,000. That’s about $91,917 in Aussie dollars.

They were about to buy their first home in Hertfordshire. They were going to start and raise a family here. These cyber attackers have stolen that dream.

ThisisMoney.co.uk reports,

‘In December, she received an email from the firm asking her to transfer the £45,000 deposit for the £269,000 property. It was an exciting moment — it meant the house buy was going to happen.

‘But a few days later, on December 17, on her way into work in Cambridge, Sarah checked her phone and found she had received another email, apparently from Advantage Property Lawyers.

‘It said the firm’s usual bank account was being audited, so Sarah should instead pay the cash into a Barclays branch. It gave her an account number and sort code.

‘Nothing seemed amiss, so Sarah stopped at her local branch of the bank on her way to the office and paid the cash. She later received another email — apparently from Advantage — thanking her for the transaction and stating that the cash had gone through.’

The problem here was the email on 17 December didn’t come from their solicitor. It was cyber attackers. Attackers waiting and watching for the perfect moment to strike.

The first email was legit. The others weren’t. Sarah transferred the cash to a fraudulent account. That day, the hackers withdrew two large chunks of it. No one had any idea what was going on. That is, until the solicitors said no money hit their account. And that they hadn’t sent the emails.

The Toughs managed to get half of it back, but the rest is history. Furthermore, the bank won’t cover the shortfall. The couple’s bank, Barclays said,

Barclays had no way of knowing that [hackers] account would be used for fraudulent purposes. As soon as we are alerted to suspicious account activity or it is picked up by our transaction profiling work, we investigate the circumstances and if we are satisfied that the accounts are being used to launder the proceeds of crime, we act as quickly as possible to close the accounts.’

The most alarming part of all this was how easy it was. Just one fake email and hackers are £23,000 richer. It’s a real eye opener. However this is just one aspect of the current cyber war we’re in the middle of. It’s just one example of how real people with hopes and dreams are falling victim to these digital criminals.

The reality is no one is safe. No person, no business, no government.

Australia is constantly under attack. In November last year Chinese hackers attacked the top-secret government negotiations. The target was information about the new fleet of Australian submarines. This was just one month after the former head of ASIO, David Irvine said,

We must anticipate, given the sophistication that [jihadists] have already demonstrated in using the internet for propaganda and other reasons, that they could well develop destructive [cyber] attack capabilities in the near future.

What chance do you have if the government can’t even figure it out?

A report yesterday in The Daily Telegraph revealed the NSW Department of Industry, Resources and Energy has also been under attack.

The department said they ‘do not believe the attacks penetrated our systems.’ It’s troubling they don’t know for sure…

It’s also troubling they were unable to confirm if the attack was domestic or international.

Chances are the attacks went for sensitive mining approvals from within the department. Why would an attacker want those? Well to play the market of course. Why else?

This is the new form of insider trading. Cyber attackers gaining corporate secrets and making off with profits on stock markets around the world. It would be naïve to think it doesn’t happen — but how can you prove it?

Government departments can’t figure out what’s going on. So what chance does ASIC have? What chance do you have?

The threat of cyber attack is ever present. We’re all at risk. But there are companies trying to fight against it. These companies are at the forefront of new cyber protection. These ‘defender’ companies are involved in encryption, real-time threat analysis, penetration testing, cyber forensics and threat prevention.

The tech is there to protect your digital world. But it’s up to people like you to take it seriously. Use available tech to keep yourself safe online.

You might never make it impossible to stop a cyber attacker. But you can make it a damn sight harder. After all surely something is better than nothing.

Regards,

Sam

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Sam Volkering is an Editor for Money Morning and is small-cap, cryptocurrency and technology expert.

He’s not interested in boring blue chip stocks. He’s after explosive investments; companies whose shares trade for cents on the dollar, cryptocurrencies that can deliver life-changing returns. He looks for the ‘edge of the bell curve’ opportunities that are often shunned by those in the financial services industry.

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