Protecting yourself in the time of cyber criminals involves recognizing the various types of cyber crimes and knowing how to avoid them
While the internet brings the world to our fingertips, it also brings the fingertips of the rest of the world back to you. As Internet technology improves, it gets vastly more complex, and the more complex a system gets, the more opportunities there are to exploit it. This complexity is why there are so many different types of cyber crimes.
Anytime you mix the chance of a high return with relatively low risk, you will find a feeding frenzy, and the Internet is no exception. Law enforcement is in a constant struggle to keep up with cyber crime, and the IC3, the US government’s cyber crime center, has received over 1,400,000 complaints since 2012, resulting in a loss of over $4.63 billion.
In this kind of environment, it’s crucial to have a working knowledge of the types of cyber crimes and how to protect yourself.
Categories of cyber crimes
The first thing that is used to differentiate between cyber crimes is the target. Some cyber criminals try manipulate individuals, while others may be politically motivated to attack a government organization.
Based on the target, cyber crime can be broadly divided into three categories:
- Individual: This is a broad category that includes everything from stalking to human trafficking to child pornography, but it involves using data gathered through the Internet to help identify a person to target in the real world.
- Property: Rather than a direct attack against a person, some criminals will try to target sensitive information that they can use for profit. This includes money-funneling schemes, identity theft, and corporate espionage attacks.
- Government: The criminals attacking governments are considered cyber terrorists, and includes hacking government and military websites, or the spreading of propaganda.
Depending upon the target and the goal of the cyber criminal, the techniques and style of attack can vary greatly.
Identifying different types of cyber crimes
There are many different ways for a cyber crime to affect the victim. The most common attack vectors include:
Business email compromise or email account compromise (BEC/EAC): This is a cyber attack targeting a business through hacked email accounts. Once the email is compromised, the criminal will attempt to steal data, transfer funds, or impersonate officers of the company.
Confidence fraud or romance: This is an individual attack where the criminal earns the victim's trust and uses that trust to steal money or information. This includes fraud that involves an Internet romance, which causes additional emotional harm to the victim.
Non-payment or non-delivery: This category includes auction fraud, where victims are tricked into sending funds in exchange for non-existent goods, or sending possessions in exchange for a fake cashier’s check.
Investment: As the name implies, this is the offering of false securities in exchange for investment money.
Corporate data breach: The data collected by large corporations can be scary in many ways, but to a cyber criminal, it’s invaluable. Finding ways to access corporate information can involve everything from physical breaches using USB drives to email phishing schemes and hacking.
Advanced fee: These types of cyber crimes involve the request of money up front in order to release a large fund into the victim’s account. This is also called the Nigerian advance fee scheme, because so many of the attacks are associated with the country. This is still a very lucrative scam, despite the fact that it’s so well known.
Personal data breach: Like corporations, individuals are often attacked for their personal information, like credit card or social security numbers, bank accounts, and identifying data. Unlike corporations, most individuals don’t have an IT department to watch out for data beaches. These kinds of attacks can come in many different forms, such as fake tech support pop-ups. According to Moses C, a tech support specialist on JustAnswer:
“The fake tech support pages are usually malicious websites which are used by cyber criminals to promote their remote support services. These tech support pop-ups will state that your computer is infected and that you need to call their paid support service to remove the infection. This is a bogus claim, and an attempt to make you pay for their malware removal “services.”
Identity theft: With the information gathered in a personal data breach, a cyber criminal can pretend to be you and commit other forms of fraud, such as taking out credit cards and make purchases in your name. The victim is often unaware of the theft until the collection calls start.
Of the various types of cyber crimes, BEC/EAC attacks were the most costly in 2016, accounting for over $360.51 million in losses. Confidence fraud was a distant second, costing individuals $219.81 million.
Trust us, this guy doesn't have your best interests at heart!
Protecting yourself from cyber crime
While the back-and-forth struggle between cybercrime and security will always be changing, there are some basic steps you can take to help protect yourself.
- Make sure you have full service security programs from a reputable source on your computers.
- Always choose strong passwords, and don’t use the same password on multiple sites.
- Be sure to update all of your software, as these updates can include fixes for new threats.
- Don’t share private information on social media, and change your settings to keep personal information private.
- Protect your home network with a strong password and use encryption to keep data unreadable if you are breached.
- Make sure everyone who uses the Internet, including children, is aware of internet safety protocols.
- Pay attention to the newest threats and data breaches, and change your passwords if you believe your account has been hacked.
If you're the victim of a cyber crime, you should report the crime to your local police, even if it seems small or unimportant. Depending on the nature and scale of the crime, you may need to alert the FBI or even the Federal Trade Commission. You should also report the crime to the Internet crime complaint center to increase the general pool of knowledge on the types of cyber crimes and their prevalence.
Perhaps the most important things you can do to protect yourself is to use common sense. If something seems too good to be true, there’s a good chance that it is. Always doublecheck before you give away private information, and triple check before you send money.
For the answers to your legal questions about protecting yourself from the different types of cyber crimes, the qualified Experts on JustAnswer are a fast and affordable alternative to scheduling a meeting with a lawyer.
Have you been the victim of a cyber crime? Please tell us about it in the comments!