Cybercrime: It's Much More Than Identity Theft
An unsuspecting Internet surfer unwittingly downloads a Trojan that installs a keystroke logger onto his machine. His bank account password is now fair game.
An unwary consumer interested in antique furniture gets lured to an auction site which looks like eBay. She later discovers the site was a fake when the goods she thought she purchased never arrive.
A senior on a fixed income is fooled by a scammer into providing bank account information. His account is emptied and nothing can be done to retrieve the money.
None of these three cybervictims had their identities stolen, but each one was a victim of a cybercrime—losing data, money, and peace of mind.
When most people think of cybercrime, they think of identity theft. But identity theft is only one of a host of cybercrimes that await the unsuspecting computer user, and accounts for only a portion of the total number of cybercrime incidents reported each year. While identity theft is an especially pernicious cybercrime, it is important to realize that it is not the only threat awaiting you in cyberspace.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), experts in the field, and various commissioned studies, cybercrime is estimated to cost U.S. businesses and individuals tens of billion of dollars annually. Most experts agree that each year cybercriminals get craftier and better equipped, with sophisticated, blended attacks that target individuals, businesses, and even the government.
What is cybercrime?
Cybercrime is an umbrella term that covers a wide array of attacks and scams. Generally speaking, it is a crime in which a computer or network is the place, source, target or tool of said crime. This definition covers everything from phishing and pharming techniques to devastating network viruses, from identity theft to cyberstalking and harassment, from self-replicating crimeware programs to cyberterrorism. What follows are three methods of financially motivated cybercrime that target individuals.
Phishing and pharming
—Phishing is a way of fraudulently obtaining personal information through spam or targeted emails that look as if they come from trusted sources. These emails will often incorporate well known logos and slogans and inform the user that their account password has expired. The cybercrooks hope to get lucky and fool a certain percentage of the people that receive the email to either give up their information directly or navigate to a spoofed Website where they are asked to provide it.
Pharming uses Domain Name Service hijacking to misdirect users to a spoof site that collects credit card numbers, passwords, and social security numbers. Sometimes the cybercrooks use a pop-up to try to grab that information before directing users to the real Website.
—These are tools of the trade for cybercrooks. Malware applies to any kind of malicious software used to cause harm to a user's computer. These technologies, which include Trojans, worms, and keystroke loggers, can take over some aspect of your computer in order to steal information and ultimately money from you and others.
Same old con man, new ride
—Con men and women have been around since the beginning of human history, and the computer and Internet just represent new tools for their scams. In this category fall the infamous Nigerian scammers, crooks who trick you into unauthorized bank transfers and perform other forms of fraud. The difference between this and other types of cybercrime is that the crooks form a sort of relationship with the victim, fooling them into parting with their money.
The bottom line with all the different types of cybercrime is that it's theft—of your personal information, your money, and your trust—all things that ultimately make up part of your identity.
Although a lot of theft is more data theft than identity theft, it's difficult to draw a line because even if the crook is just stealing passwords, those passwords relate to your identity in some way. And once they get your username and password, it opens the door to getting a lot more data. Identity theft is one way to think about it, but consumers need to be guard for any kind of attack.
One of the best ways to do this is to arm your computer with strong security software that protects you from every angle.