Cybercrime, also known as computer crime, is essentially any crime that involves a network or computer. As technology becomes increasingly ingrained in every aspect of our lives, the amount of cybercrimes likewise increases.
There are three general categories cybercrimes can be divided into: Individual, Property, and Government. While cybercrime towards the government (also known as cyber terrorism) is the least common type, overall cybercrime in the United States is estimated to cost about $100 billion per year. Here are some of the most common cybercrimes you should be aware of.
Data Theft and Financial Fraud
With online banking and consumer databases a mainstream part of modern society, the most common cybercrimes are financial in nature. Cybercriminals attack business websites or personal accounts to steal and fraudulently use others financial and personal information. By trespassing onto your computer or a corporate database, these criminals then obtain passwords, social security numbers, and other sensitive information to commit identity theft. In today’s world, your personal data is a lucrative form of currency.
Often linked with cyber bullying and harassment, cyber stalking involves a user being constantly bombarded with cruel, threatening, or explicit emails and online messages. The media has recently covered many cases of this type of internet harassment among teenagers, but even more than making an individual’s life miserable, these types of cybercrimes escalate quickly. People can become victims of being impersonated, having their passwords hacked, or even having their entire online identity stolen if they don’t protect the information they give out on social media sites like Facebook.
Spam, Phishing, and Spoofing
Used to lure people into giving up their sensitive information, “phishing” messages and mass unsolicited emails known as “spam” are more than just annoyances. Spam or phishing emails can also contain computer viruses, worms, and malware that are secretly downloaded. All of these can then make your computer more vulnerable to being hijacked. Similarly, “spoofing” is a cybercrime where your computer or email account has been illegally accessed. Now in control, the criminal then uses your identity to mass message and deceive your family, friends, and other contacts in order to further perpetrate data theft and other cybercrimes.
Covering a wide range of cybercrimes, hacking can be simple or complex. Computer hacking can be as straightforward as correctly guessing a user’s password or security questions and accessing their private information to remote takeovers that enslave thousands of individual computers and turn them into zombie botnets. Hacked computers can also be used for committing identity theft, blackmail, and redirecting purchased items for criminal purposes. For hardware hacking, cybercriminals can exploit common devices such as printers to trespass on linked network data and even cause the printer to overheat and burst into flames.
Being informed is just the first step to protecting yourself.
Other than knowing what cybercrimes are the most common, being cautious about what information you share online and keeping updated firewalls can help secure your computer and other devices. You can also better defend yourself from cybercrimes by securing your online connections and always keeping your anti-virus software updated.