Cybercrime, also called computer crime, is the use of a computer as an instrument to further illegal ends, such as committing fraud, trafficking in child pornography and intellectual property, stealing identities, or violating privacy. Cybercrime, especially through the Internet, has grown in importance as the computer has become central to commerce, entertainment, and government.
Because of the early and widespread adoption of computers and the Internet in the United States, most of the earliest victims and villains of cybercrime were Americans. By the 21st century, though, hardly a hamlet remained anywhere in the world that had not been touched by cybercrime of one sort or another.
Examples of cybercrime
So, what exactly counts as cybercrime? And are there any well-known examples?
In this section, we look at famous examples of different types of cybercrime attacks used by cybercriminals. Read on to understand what counts as cybercrime.
A malware attack is where a computer system or network is infected with a computer virus or other type of malware.
A computer compromised by malware could be used by cybercriminals for several purposes. These include stealing confidential data, using the computer to carry out other criminal acts, or causing damage to data.
A famous example of a malware attack is the WannaCry ransomware attack, a global cybercrime committed in May 2017.
Ransomware is a type of malware used to extort money by holding the victim’s data or device to ransom. WannaCry is a type of ransomware that targeted a vulnerability in computers running Microsoft Windows.
When the WannaCry ransomware attack hit, 230,000 computers were affected across 150 countries. Users were locked out of their files and sent a message demanding that they pay a BitCoin ransom to regain access.
Worldwide, the WannaCry cybercrime is estimated to have caused $4 billion in financial losses.
A phishing campaign is when spam emails, or other forms of communication, are sent en masse, with the intention of tricking recipients into doing something that undermines their security or the security of the organization they work for.
Phishing campaign messages may contain infected attachments or links to malicious sites. Or they may ask the receiver to respond with confidential information
A famous example of a phishing scam from 2018 was one that took place over the World Cup. According to reports by Inc, the World Cup phishing scam involved emails that were sent to football fans.
These spam emails tried to entice fans with fake free trips to Moscow, where the World Cup was being hosted. People who opened and clicked on the links contained in these emails had their personal data stolen.
Another type of phishing campaign is known as spear-phishing. These are targeted phishing campaigns that try to trick specific individuals into jeopardizing the security of the organization they work for.
Unlike mass phishing campaigns, which are very general in style, spear-phishing messages are typically crafted to look like messages from a trusted source. For example, they are made to look like they have come from the CEO or the IT manager. They may not contain any visual clues that they are fake.
Distributed DoS attacks
Distributed DoS attacks (DDoS) are a type of cybercrime attack that cybercriminals use to bring down a system or network. Sometimes connected IoT (internet of things) devices are used to launch DDoS attacks.
A DDoS attack overwhelms a system by using one of the standard communication protocols it uses to spam the system with connection requests.
Cybercriminals who are carrying out cyberextortion may use the threat of a DDoS attack to demand money. Alternatively, a DDoS may be used as a distraction tactic while another type of cybercrime takes place.
A famous example of this type of attack is the 2017 DDoS attack on the UK National Lottery website. This brought the lottery’s website and mobile app offline, preventing UK citizens from playing.
How to protect yourself against cybercrime
So, now you understand the threat cybercrime represents, what are the best ways to protect your computer and your personal data? Here are our top tips:
Keep software and operating system updated
Keeping your software and operating system up to date ensures that you benefit from the latest security patches to protect your computer.
Use anti-virus software and keep it updated
Using anti-virus or a comprehensive internet security solution like Kaspersky Total Security is a smart way to protect your system from attacks.
Anti-virus software allows you to scan, detect and remove threats before they become a problem. Having this protection in place helps to protect your computer and your data from cybercrime, giving you piece of mind.
If you use anti-virus software, make sure you keep it updated to get the best level of protection.
Use strong passwords
Be sure to use strong passwords that people will not guess and do not record them anywhere. Or use a reputable password manager to generate strong passwords randomly to make this easier.
Never open attachments in spam emails
A classic way that computers get infected by malware attacks and other forms of cybercrime is via email attachments in spam emails. Never open an attachment from a sender you do not know.
Do not click on links in spam emails or untrusted websites
Another way people become victims of cybercrime is by clicking on links in spam emails or other messages, or unfamiliar websites. Avoid doing this to stay safe online.
Do not give out personal information unless secure
Never give out personal data over the phone or via email unless you are completely sure the line or email is secure. Make certain that you are speaking to the person you think you are.
Contact companies directly about suspicious requests
If you get asked for data from a company that has called you, hang up. Call them back using the number on their official website to ensure you are speaking to them and not a cybercriminal.
Ideally, use a different phone because cybercriminals can hold the line open. When you think you’ve re-dialed, they can pretend to be from the bank or other organization that you think you’re speaking to.
Be mindful of which website URLs you visit
Keep an eye on the URLs you are clicking on. Do they look legitimate? Avoid clicking on links with unfamiliar or spammy-looking URLs.
If your internet security product includes functionality to secure online transactions, ensure it is enabled before carrying out financial transactions online.
Keep an eye on your bank statements
Our tips should help you avoid falling foul of cybercrime. However, if all else fails, spotting that you have become a victim of cybercrime quickly is important.
Keep an eye on your bank statements and query any unfamiliar transactions with the bank. The bank can investigate whether they are fraudulent.
Now you understand the threat of cybercrime, protect yourself from it.