Everyone who uses a computer on a regular basis is aware of cybercrime. Commonly referred to as hacking, cybercrime is becoming more and more sophisticated. The growth of online banking and e-commerce offers criminals more opportunities than ever before, and specialist criminal groups happily target businesses and individuals in order to profit. Alarmingly, 1 in 10 adults in the UK alone have been victims of cybercrime. It’s also thought that businesses in the United States lose $525,000,000 annually to different forms of cybercrime. All this goes to show the scope of cybercrime and its prevalence. It is important that we understand better what cybercrime is, and how it affects us.
Let’s take a look at some of the different types of cybercrime:
‘Phishing’ is probably one of cybercrime’s better-known phrases. The act of phishing itself involves using a method to access usernames and passwords, as well as other valuable personal details. Perhaps you’ve received an email telling you that you’ve won the lottery (Please note: You cannot win a lottery you haven’t entered!), and you’ve also probably received an email asking you to click on a link or a video. These types of email are very common, but are unfortunately becoming more sophisticated and getting harder and harder to spot. Unfortunately, 250,000,000 such emails were thought to be sent in early 2016 that were believed to contain malicious attachments. What’s even more disconcerting is that the emails were discovered by only one brand of antivirus software that had been installed on users’ computers. The total number of computers with other forms of antivirus protection who received these emails and did not detect them remains unknown.
Not all phishing emails contain attachments. Some appear to be sent from the recipient’s bank, asking for login information. It bears repeating that banks will never contact you via email, but are more likely to call you or send you a letter in the mail. If you do receive an email that’s allegedly from your bank, please contact your bank and ask if it really is from them (a prediction: they will say no). Do not contact your bank using any telephone numbers or email addresses contained in the email, as these forms of contact are likely to give you a direct line to those who are trying to steal your money or your identity.
In recent years, with the growth in popularity of online dating, there has been a surge in webcam crime. More and more people are aware that those who use webcams in order to interact with dates are falling foul to criminals. While many of us know that not everyone online is who they claim to be, it’s often hard to spot those who are using a fake identity. It’s a shame to think that those who are simply trying to meet that someone special occasionally find the individual on the other side of the camera is only in it to victimize others. Some criminals have been known to record sexual acts that are performed by the victim, and then go on to use the recording in order to blackmail him or her, a crime known as “sextortion.”
If you’re a victim…
If you are a victim of this type of crime, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. “Sextortion” involves the blackmailer threatening to share the images they have of you unless you pay him or her. In this situation, it is important to contact your local police. You should also inform your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and cease all communication with the criminals.
Take screenshots of your communications and suspend your social media accounts rather than deleting them.
Don’t pay a penny!
You could be forgiven for thinking that once you’ve paid money to the blackmailers that they will simply disappear. Unfortunately, many people have been asked for more and more money, even though they’ve already paid the original sum. If you have arranged to pay blackmailers, cancel any payments you’ve set up, and make a note of how and where any money was received. Any information you have about the crime will be of great use to the police.
Ransomware is a type of hostile software that limits or prevents users from accessing their computer. Criminals may lock your screen or even your files, and will demand payment to unlock it. In other words, they might hold your computer to ransom. You should be aware that if you make a payment, it won’t necessarily result in your computer being unlocked, as the criminals are then likely to ask for even more money.
A well-known scam involves locking a user’s screen and displaying a message which states that you need to contact your operating system provider. A contact number will be displayed along with the message, and the target is prompted to call them as soon as possible. The number provided is almost certainly the criminals themselves. Do not call the number or communicate with the scammers in any way. If you’re not sure whether the message is genuine, simply look through the paperwork that came with your computer and find the genuine contact numbers there. If you don’t have any contact numbers, ask someone you trust to search for the details instead.
Many of us know that we need to be on the lookout for malware–but what exactly is it? According to actionfraudpolice.uk, malware is “malicious software that consists of programming, for example code or scripts, designed to disrupt the performance of PCs, laptops, handheld devices, etc.” The software that criminals add to our computers and other devices can make using our devices very difficult. You’ve probably heard of malware, but some of the other terms for certain types of malware– “virus” or “spyware”—make clear just how pernicious these programs are and how potentially devastating they can be.
The good news is that you can protect yourself against malware simply by keeping your antivirus software up to date and being careful when you download anything. You should always keep your firewall switched on and should never click on links you’re unsure about. Taking these few steps can help to protect your computer with little effort.
When someone attempts to hack into your computer, it can be disconcerting and embarrassing. Remember, however, that the attack is not personal, and you are in the company of many others if you have fallen victim to them. It is therefore important to overcome any feelings of embarrassment and contact the police. Prevention, however is the ideal, and prevention comes from awareness: If you are aware of the architecture of scams and cybercrime in general, you can reduce your likelihood of becoming a victim.