Cybercrimes come in different forms. Some are more widespread than others for a lot of reasons, including ease of execution, as well as a wider victim base. But what constitutes a cybercrime? What are the different types of cybercrimes, and how can you fight against them? This article will help you understand what cybercrime is, how you can identify them, and how you can protect yourself from being a target.
What Is Cybercrime?
Cybercrimes are acts of crime committed using or targeting a computer. In almost all cases, these crimes are committed to gain unlawful access to information not otherwise available to the perpetrator.
In the digital age, information as seemingly harmless as a few lines of personal details can bring down government agencies, businesses, organizations, and even individuals.
Perpetrators nowadays don’t even need to have exceptional computer abilities. All they need to have is an understanding of how the human mind works, and how they could make even the highly doubtful to willingly give up personal or sensitive information.
What Are the Different Forms of Cybercrimes?
Cybercrimes can be categorized into government, property, and individual. These categories define the victim or the target of the crimes.
Hacking into government websites, gaining access to top secret government information, mishandling national data, and disseminating propaganda are examples of government cybercrimes. Also known as cyber terrorism, these crimes are usually the most serious of all the types of cybercrimes, and are usually instigated by hackers from enemy governments.
On the other hand, property cybercrimes involve getting access to credit card information or any other information that may be used to purchase things online. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission recorded 1.1 million cases of online fraud that cost consumers more than $900 million. Around 133,000 of these cases were credit card frauds.
The last category is individual cybercrime. These are crimes involving malicious and illegal online content. Cyberstalking, child pornography, piracy and others are examples of individual cybercrimes.
Cybercrime #1: Malware
More than half of all users in the US have had at least one of their devices infected by some kind of malware. This includes all computer devices including desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. Different types of malware may infect your devices, but the most common are Trojans and spyware.
Trojan malware usually pose as legitimate software applications that offer a type of service. The impact can be as instant or as delayed, or as obvious or as obscure depending on the author of the virus. Some Trojan viruses will hold important files for ransom, and won’t give you back the files until the ransom has been paid. Still, some authors are just motivated by the chaos.
On the other hand, spyware are programs that seem harmless at first. They may even work as they’re supposed to. However, they spy on the system users using different tools such as webcam prying tools, wire tapping systems, and key loggers. Some malware may also uninstall important programs without your knowledge, and install other types of malicious content instead.
Fortunately, many anti-virus programs can detect, delete, or block these types of malware before they even get into your computer system. Even free versions of anti-virus software may help protect you from these, but you have to make sure you get the software from a reputable company.
Cybercrime #2: Phishing
Phishing for personal information can be done through email, phone call, text message, or even social media messaging apps. Phishing scammers will communicate with their victims under the ruse of unauthorized activities, with the scammers posing as a person with which the victim has an account with.
For example, the scammer will send a phishing email to the victim, telling them that they found some suspicious activities on their accounts. To correct said activities, the scammer will ask for “authentication”. The victim will be asked to provide credit card information or login credentials. Of course, this information will be used to take advantage of the victim’s accounts.
Some phishing scammers will usually take on the identity of a lawyer fixing a dead person’s last will and testament, or an authority figure in charge of handing out prizes.
Most popular of these false identities, however, is that of a Nigerian prince who wants to transfer his money to a non-Nigerian bank account because of a civil war currently being fought in said country. Needless to say, the country is currently under no such war and, while Nigeria has lots of princes from different ethnic tribes, they are not considered princes of the country as a whole. It’s also highly unlikely that any of these princes would solicit help from a stranger over the internet.
Cybercrime #3: DDos Attacks
A DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack happens when an attacker floods the bandwidth of a target system. The attacker usually targets web servers in the hopes that the servers would crash and no one will be able to access the websites and avail of their services during the attack.
Unlike DOS (denial of service), DDoS attacks can come from hundreds of thousands of sources. So unless the target can pinpoint exactly if the request comes from a legitimate customer, it’s impossible to completely stop a DDoS attack.
You can catch a DDoS attack early by closely monitoring your servers. An overprovision of your bandwidth may also help buy you time when fighting against these attacks.
Cybercrime #4: Identity Theft
The idea behind this crime is simple: you take the identity of a victim, you pose and introduce yourself as the victim, and then you take whatever benefit that identity could entail.
This means that they can open new accounts or take over your existing ones, purchase properties or any other type of item, fake tax returns, claim your social insurance benefits, commit any crime, and a long list of many other activities all done under your name.
To avoid being a victim of identity theft, you need to be wary about who has access to your personal data. You need to be a vigilant internet user. You can only entrust your data with a select few.