Six Common Types of Cyber Crime
As the Internet, mobile phones, and other computer technologies have flourished, criminals have found ways to use them for old-fashioned goals such as theft, fraud, intimidation, and harassment. Crimes committed through the use of computer systems are known as cybercrimes. Here are some common cybercrimes to look out for.
Most forms of Internet fraud are financial in nature. Cybercriminals may hack into personal financial accounts to access funds. They might attack website databases in order to gain access to consumer details, such as Social Security numbers, that can be used to take out credit cards or loans in another person’s name. This type of fraud is known as identity theft.
Criminals can also hijack a person’s wireless Internet connection in order to use it without having to pay for it.
Cybercriminals can gain access to individual computers to peek through files, website browsing history, access passwords, or possibly even save files to your machine. This type of fraud is known as computer trespass1. In many cases, computer trespassing is accomplished by luring people to click on attachments or download files.
For instance, a recent Black Friday scam sent victims an e-mail that was apparently from Apple, promising a $50 iTunes gift card if they downloaded a particular file. The file actually allowed its creators to access passwords and other sensitive information on computers that downloaded it.2
Researchers at Columbia University recently discovered a serious security flaw in certain printers, as well. Many printers automatically update their software when accepting a print job, connecting to the Internet to download the latest print drivers.
Researchers believe that criminals could exploit this process by having printers download malicious files to trespass on networks the printers are connected to, or even to make the printers overheat and catch fire.3
Bullying, Harassment, And Stalking
There have been several high-profile cases of teenagers bullying one another over the Internet. In most instances of cyberbullying, bullies posted obscene or cruel messages to the victim on social media sites like Facebook, uploaded embarrassing videos of them to sites like YouTube, or impersonated someone else to toy with their emotions.
Harassers and bullies may also steal their victims’ passwords, to impersonate them on the Internet or monitor their e-mail accounts.
The Internet can also be an ideal tool for stalkers. Information is often handed to the criminals by the victims themselves. Unwary social media site users can give away their name, age, occupation, home and work addresses, or even their current location by using sites such as Foursquare or Facebook without making full use of privacy protections.
Unsolicited mass e-mail, known colloquially as “spam”, is more than annoying: spam messages can be used to trick people into giving up sensitive personal information (known as “phishing”), or as carriers for computer worms and viruses.
Additionally, opening spam e-mail could leave you vulnerable to “spoofing”, where a spammer gains the ability to send more of this junk e-mail through your account.4
More complex and far-reaching than the crimes above, information warfare involves large-scale attacks on computers, websites, and networks. Jamming or hijacking a satellite or phone network, which can be done through computers, is one example of information warfare.
Hijacked computers can then be turned into “zombies” that spread malicious code, or paralyze a website by repeatedly trying to gain access—what’s known as a DDoS attack. DDoS stands for “distributed denial of service”, and is basically the use of many computers to swamp a targeted website so that it cannot operate.5
More Enforcement And Investigation Personnel Needed
While the CIA’s best estimates show that the dollar cost of cybercrime seems to have dropped since 2002, when it passed the $450 million mark6, cybercrime is probably here to stay.
Computer security industry groups, such as the High Technology Computer Investigation Association, are hearing reports from members that more forensic analysis and investigative personnel are needed to combat cybercrime. The HTCIA’s 2010 Report On Cybercrime Investigation confirms this, and adds that existing personnel need more comprehensive training.7 Fortunately, information technology, computer science, and computer engineering degree programs regularly include computer security and cybercrime prevention in their course content.
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1Online Security, Inc. "Statutes by State - Computer Trespass." Online Security. Online Security, Inc., May 2004. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <http://www.iprotect.com/Community_Forum/statutes-states-ctr-2.php>.
2Warman, Matt. "‘Black Friday’ ITunes Credit Scam." Telegraph.co.uk. Daily Telegraph, 25 Nov. 2011. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/8914975/Black-Friday-iTunes-credit-scam.html>.
3Sullivan, Bob. "Exclusive: Millions of Printers Open to Devastating Hack Attack, Researchers Say." MSNBC.com. NBC, 29 Nov. 2011. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. <http://redtape.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/11/29/9076395-exclusive-millions-of-printers-open-to-devastating-hack-attack-researchers-say>.
4Belsey, Bill. "Examples of Cyberbullying." Www.cyberbullying.org. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <http://www.cyberbullying.org/examples.html>.
5Dittrich, Dave. "The "stacheldraht" Distributed Denial of Service Attack Tool." University of Washington. University of Washington, 31 Dec. 1999. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <http://staff.washington.edu/dittrich/misc/stacheldraht.analysis.txt>.
6"Summary of Growth in Internet Problems." Practitioner.com. The Legal Practitioner. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <http://legal.practitioner.com/computer-crime/computercrime_6_3.htm#_edn2>.
7High Technology Crime Investigation Association. "2010 Report on Cyber Crime Investigation."High Technology Crime Investigation Association. HTCIA, Inc., 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <http://www.htcia.org/pdfs/2010survey_report.pdf>.