The internet has grown in users exponentially, connecting people on all corners of the world and bringing them together. This is fantastic for business, as they can now reach a much larger audience, and consumers have never had as much choice in products and services. The downside to this connectivity is that it opens both businesses and individuals to new potential threats. Threats that 20 years ago were simply unheard of. Today we have an alarmingly large number of people who have been the victims of identity theft, hacking, and malicious software, and the number is growing every day. The best defense is to protect your computer, with the right software and hardware to stop these attacks and keep your data safe. If you’ve been having problems with your laptop recently, check out this post which covers the basics of getting it back up and running.
Crimes that are committed over the internet are called cyber crimes, and there are a number of different ways that criminals can use the internet to target you. This course is excellent in explaining many of the threats, as well as covering what you can do to remain secure. To better understand the ways your system is vulnerable to cyber crime, here are the most common types:
This crime involves a ‘hacker’ breaking into someone else’s computer and accessing their personal and sensitive information. In the United States, gaining unauthorized access into another’s computer system or network is considered a felony, and is punishable as such. Most cyber crimes stem from hacking, as it is the hacked information that is then used for fraud, terrorism, and exploitation. Some organizations battle the threats by employing ethical hackers, who use their skills to check for vulnerabilities in the company’s internet security, which are then promptly fixed. Typically a hacker will use software programs that allow them to gain access to a person’s computer, and much of the time you will not even be aware your computer is being accessed from a remote location.
Denial of Service Attacks
This is an act of cyber vandalism by a criminal to deprive an individual or a company with the services they are entitled to access. It works by flooding the bandwidth of the victims network, causing their website to crash, or overloading their email accounts with spam so they can no longer use them appropriately. Many criminals use such attacks as punishment for perceived slights, such as businesses taking a certain political stance that are not aligned to the criminals. Often it is done simply for publicity and fame, and as proof of a criminals ability.
This type of cyber crime is related to the violation of copyright law. Illegally downloading movies, music, games and software is all a form of crime. It results in massive losses for retailers thanks to the prolific availability of copyrighted materials on the internet. The FBI targets peer sharing websites to limit and restrict the accessibility of this type of crime, but it is unfortunately quite prevalent.
Cyber Stalking and Defamation
This is a form of online harassment, where a victim is barraged by an onslaught of online messages, and emails. Usually these kind of stalkers know their victims, and use the internet instead of sitting around outside their apartment window. The trouble is that it can often escalate if they are not getting the desired effects from the cyber stalking and can make a victim’s life miserable.
In a similar line, cyber defamation is when the criminal sends defamatory information to an individual’s email contacts, or posts the same information in an online community (like facebook) or on a website. This is most common with amateur criminals, as disgruntled employees vent against an ex boss, or as an ex seeks to make your life terrible after a bad break up.
As more and more people use the internet for transaction and banking services, identity theft has become a major problem. Using stolen information a criminal targets a person’s bank account and credit cards to gain access to their financial accounts and either siphon the money to another account, or buy products using the victims details. You can learn how to protect your personal computer from many of the common threats in this course.
Phishing is the term used to describe the deceptive ways criminals get the confidential financial information from their targets, unfortunately many are simply misled because the criminal is posing as someone from their financial institution (e.g. an email that looks to be from your bank asking you to update your password). Often the most vulnerable part of a computer network are the users who are accessing it. Once a criminal has the access details, it is very easy to login and start messing around with your accounts. Identify theft has major problems for the victim as it creates massive financial losses, and can even ruin their credit history.
Sometimes though, it can go unnoticed for long periods of time. Criminals often fly under the radar by only withdrawing small amounts of money, at regular periods. Many people wouldn’t even question a monthly $2.50 coming out of their account, assuming it’s just a service fee or the like. If a criminal has a list of 10,000 bank accounts they’re doing this with, they stand to gain a significant amount.
These programs are typically used by hackers, and simply disrupt a network. The programs have different designs, but essentially are used to gain access into a system so that they can steal sensitive information and data, or cause damage to the existing software in the system. The most common are viruses and worms, but trojans also allow hackers to have remote access into your entire network.
This is a type of cyber crime where criminals visit chat rooms with the intent of grooming potential targets for abuse and child pornography. The FBI has a large task force that monitors chat rooms frequented by children in the hope of reducing this solicitation.
Why is Cyber Crime a Problem?
The internet has made it very easy to connect with anyone in the world. The network of computers gives criminals plenty of opportunities, and the potential for large gains with very little risk. Cyber crime is essentially this, taking advantage of systems and getting access to sensitive data, and catching the criminals that could be working from anywhere in the world is difficult. As a result, the rate of cyber crime is on the rise.
Hacking started out as a hobby in the 1990s, as computer enthusiasts wanted to extract more information from their systems. There were competitions between the best, as individuals strived for the label of the best hacker. Many networks were affected as a result, from the military to large commercial organizations. These were brushed off as a nuisance for the most part, but the rise in malicious software in the same period made networks and systems painfully slow. As hackers got better at retrieving sensitive information, they began using their skills to exploit and victimize others for their own gain.
Today, cyber criminals use their knowledge to gain benefits quickly, exploiting and deceiving people to get ‘easy’ money. They are a real threat because cyber crimes can be committed without the physical presence of the criminal, very different to mugging someone for their wallet. Because the crimes are done from remote locations, many criminals don’t even have to worry about the law enforcement agencies in the country where they are committing the crime. The same network that allows for global commerce has made it much easier for criminals to exploit.
Tackling Cyber Crime
Most cyber criminals work together with a loose network of other criminals, where they collaborate and cooperate to improve their skills and help with new opportunities. Unfortunately this means that traditional crime fighting methods are difficult to use in this situation. Your best solution is to protect yourself with the latest antivirus software, and stay alert to the threats that are out there. Take this course and discover how you can protect your wireless networks, and add an additional layer of defense to your home network.
If you are running your businesses website through WordPress, check out this course on securing your site and ensure that you’ve got the highest level of protection available.
The internet has indeed introduced fantastic levels of efficiency, productivity and connectivity to businesses the world over, but it has come with an equally real and serious threat of cyber crime. Take the steps you need to protect your family, your business and yourself, and sleep a little better at night knowing you’re covered.