Cyber Crime

What is Cyber Crime?

In this day and age of advanced technology, we have become accustomed to all the benefits that computers give us in terms of convenience. While most of us would never want to go back to doing things the old fashioned way, it is very important to be aware that anyone can become a victim of cyber crime. In order to protect ourselves, we should understand exactly what constitutes this serious crime and what we can do about it.

In the general sense, cyber crime refers to any illegal activity that involves the use of a computer. This includes so many crimes it would be impossible to mention them all; however, the Department of Justice places computer crimes into three basic categories: cyber attacks, cyber theft, and other incidents involving privacy or security.

A cyber attack occurs when a computer becomes the target of a cyber criminal who has the intention of causing serious damage. Cyber attacks include such things as viruses, Trojan horses, worms, and electronic vandalism. A virus is, as the name suggests, a computer code which attaches itself to a program and has the ability to replicate itself and spread from one computer to another. A worm also spreads but does not need human interaction to do so. A Trojan horse is dangerous because it appears to be useful software, but when the unsuspecting user runs the program it can do severe damage. It is important to understand that while mere vandalism is often the motive behind implementing viruses and other similar attacks, criminals can also take control of your computer, extort money, and steal private information using these methods.

As more and more people are using online banking services, cyber theft continues to be a very real danger. Cyber theft involves using a computer as an accessory to steal both personal and financial data in order to commit fraudulent acts. Both independent criminals and organized groups are becoming more and more sophisticated in their crimes. Financial institutions are finding it necessary to work hard to stay ahead of criminals. Unfortunately, when banks change their security measures, this can also open the door for criminals to extract information from customers. Banks are finding that simple passwords and usernames are not sufficient for protection from theft and are implementing new security measures.

With the growing number of Facebook and other social network users, cyber criminals are taking advantage of these websites to hack into accounts and steal personal information, spread viruses, and even commit identity theft. Both spyware and phishing are effective methods whereby cyber criminals have been able to gather personal information from the unsuspecting. Spyware, adware, and port scanning can be particularly dangerous because they are all legal forms of tracking computer use, but have the potential to be used by criminals.

In recent years, identity theft has become a major concern for internet users. As many of us have become accustomed and desensitized to giving out personal information, the computer has become the perfect tool for this terrible crime. In 2010 the Bureau of Justice reported that there were more than eight million households in the United States in which at least one member experienced some form of identity theft. A criminal who steals your identity can often not only take money out of your bank account but open new credit card accounts, run up debts, and continue to commit crimes using your name. Often, victims of identity theft must spend large amounts of money to get things straightened out and restore their good reputations.

Protecting yourself and your computer does not have to mean giving up your computer or internet use. Some of the most important steps to cyber crime prevention are configuring a firewall; installing good security software, including antivirus and anti-spyware; and being vigilant in keeping all these protective measures up-to-date. Also, never open any emails or attachments from unrecognizable senders. Taking precautions against cyber crime is much like protecting yourself from any type of crime. The key to protection is awareness, staying on top of the game and using extreme caution and good common sense.