What is Cyber Crime?

Cyber crime is a term used to describe two closely linked yet distinct types of criminal activity, cyber-dependent crime and cyber-enabled crime.

Cyber-dependent crime or ‘pure’ cyber crime covers offences that can only be committed using computers, computer networks or other forms of information communication technology (ICT). For example, hacking into networks or spreading viruses and malware.

Cyber-enabled crime covers more traditional crimes which have been increased in their scale or reach by the use of computers, computer networks or other forms of ICT. For example, fraud or scams, blackmail and sexual exploitation.

Cyber Crime Attack Methods

DDoS Attacks

Criminals can take networks down by overwhelming sites with online traffic from a variety of sources. Large networks of infected computers (known as Botnets) are created by depositing malware on user’s computers, so that a large network of computers can overwhelm a target site. The criminals can then hack into the site once it is down.

Cyberstalking

Criminals will harass their targets online and send them unwanted messages on social media and email. Cyber-stalkers will often intimidate the victim using information they have found on them by searching online. This could include, for instance, their social media friend list, their address or numberplate.

Phishing

This type of attack involves hackers sending malicious email attachments or URLs to users to either gain access to their accounts / computers, or to steal their personal and financial information. Cyber criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach and their emails can appear, on first glance, to have come from reputable sources such as banks or delivery companies.

Online Scams

Usually take the form of spam emails or online ads that offer promises of rewards or large sums of money, but in reality, deploy malware or steal data when the link is clicked.

Social Engineering

Social engineering sees criminals contacting their targets via phone or email, usually posing as a customer service agent or law enforcement agent in order to gain trust and appear credible. This is to try and persuade their target to hand over their credentials (such as usernames or passwords) and data, so that they can sell the data or set up accounts in the target’s name. Social engineering can also take place in person, with criminals leaving infected memory sticks lying around, or looking over the shoulders of their targets and watching them enter their credentials.

Viruses and Spyware

Viruses are programmes which have been written to enter a computer and damage files or data. Viruses can gain access via email attachments, downloads or memory sticks. Spyware is installed in a similar way but collects information on the computer user and sends it back to the cybercriminal. It can also install further malicious programmes.

If you think you’ve been the victim of Cyber Crime or have noticed suspicious activity, report it

Protect yourself online

It can feel overwhelming to have to take precautions online, but the majority of cyber attacks are not targeted. Instead, they are the result of a wide-cast net, and it is far better to take some basic precautions rather than risk your valuable data and potential financial losses.

Use strong passwords

Make your passwords unique for each account and save them on your browser or a password manager app so you don’t forget them. Use three random words to create each password. For example, bemused-purple-muffins. You can still add in numbers and symbols if needed. For example, 3bemusedpurple!muffins.

Question the source

Just because an email appears to come from a reputable organisation, it doesn’t mean it is legit. Get into the habit of asking yourself the following: does the sender’s email URL look correct? Does the tone of the message have a sense of urgency? Is it asking you to provide financial or personal information, or to click a link? If so, go onto the organisation’s official website and call them on the number published there to check.

Update your software

Regularly update the software on your computers, tablets, phones, games consoles, smart fridges… that last one might seem like a joke, but in reality, anything connected to the internet can be affected. The software updates are fixing weaknesses that the manufacturers (and the criminals) have found.

Create back-ups

If the worst should happen and you lose access to your files or data, having a back-up means that the criminals don’t win, and you are able to recover. You can wipe your device and reinstall from your back-up.

Change default settings

When you receive a new device, such as an internet router, change the factory set password. Criminals can steal lists of the factory passwords and try them out in an attempt to gain access.

Check your social media settings

If your social media settings are too weak, cyber criminals can gather information on you and either attempt to imitate you, befriend you (by adopting an appealing persona), or scare you. Make sure your presence is private, and your pages are only available to approved friends.