What is cybercrime? The definition and the 5 main types


Since computers have been around, cyber crime has been around. However, with millions of cyber attacks and nearly one billion victims of cybercrime activities each year, cybercrime has never been as widespread as it is now. Anyone can fall victim to cybercrime, and the fact that we are all connected virtually puts all of us at even greater risk.

Summary: Cybercrime is any criminal activity that involves a computer, either the target of the crime or the tool. Every year, the global economy loses billions of dollars as a result of cybercriminal activity. Read on to learn more about the most common ways to commit cybercrime and find out how to protect yourself online. 

  • The definition: What is cybercrime?
  • What types of cybercrime are there?
  • Examples of cybercrime
  • How to protect yourself from cybercrime

The definition: What is cybercrime?

The term cybercrime can refer to any criminal activity that involves a computer, be it the tool of crime or its target. According to the Department of Justice, all cybercrime can be organized into three categories; crimes that use computers as weapons (for example, hacker attacks), crimes that attack a computer or other device (for example, to access a network) and crimes in which the computer is not the main tool, but still plays an important role (for example, storing illegally downloaded files).

With the increasing availability of the internet in recent years, the nature of cybercrime has evolved. Not so long ago, the bulk of cyber criminal activities involved illegal downloading of copyrighted content, or hate speech on the internet. Although not negligible, these activities are almost benign compared to what has followed. Today, new cases of extortion, mass surveillance, financial robberies, data leaks, theft of personal information and espionage make the headlines almost daily.

Cybercrime has seen unprecedented growth, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that the global economy is losing more than half a trillion dollars each year as a result of cybercriminal activity. Although many law enforcement agencies have started to take down cybercrime, the growing trend shows no signs of abating. To avoid prosecution, some cybercriminals have moved to countries with few cybercrime laws, replacing dollars with the untraceable cryptocurrency.

As with off-line criminal activities, most perpetrators of cybercriminals are motivated by financial gain. In addition to money, they are also driven by their egos, a cause they believe in, personal revenge, a sense of notoriety, as well as a desire to improve their status in hacker circles.

What types of cybercrime are there?

Cybercrime has manifested itself in many ways and forms, some of which it does not have to associate as such. For example, even theft of the computer can be considered cybercriminal activity if the perpetrator intends to use the information stored on the computer for personal gain. If someone steals a USB device with valuable information and pretends to sell it on the dark web, that is also considered cybercrime.

Some of the most common types of cybercrime include the following:

  1. DDoS attack

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are carried out by botnets, large groups of computers remotely controlled by a hacker who use their combined bandwidth and resources to commit malicious acts on the internet. Once activated, these machines join together to generate large amounts of traffic to networks or web pages, in order to overload their resources and prevent their operation.

While most DDoS attacks end in failure, thanks to reliable cybersecurity solutions, some are so strong that even the most expensive solutions cannot divert them. If successful, these attacks can bring down web pages and computer networks from anywhere for seconds or even longer than a week, causing heavy financial losses to the victim. In fact, statistics show that DDoS attacks on business networks are costing companies an average of $ 2.5 million in losses.

  1. Phishing scams

It is perhaps the most widespread form of cyber crime. The phishing scam is based on the mass sending of emails containing links to malicious web pages and / or attachments containing files infected with malicious software. When the user clicks on the link in the attached file, they may inadvertently initiate a malware download on their computer. Hackers can use malware to spy on a victim’s search activity, steal their personal information, or link their computer to a botnet and use it to attack other computers.

These emails typically have very urgent-looking subjects and images that attempt to trick victims into entering their personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers, and making them available to the hackers behind the scams. According to statistics, any given computer receives about 16 phishing emails every month. Although most of them are immediately identified as spam (junk mail), some are so realistic that they manage to bypass spam filters and end up in the inbox with legitimate mail.

  1. Identity Theft

When you unwittingly give your personal data to hackers, either by following the instructions in a phishing email or by installing malware on your computer, you could become a victim of identity theft. When hackers obtain your personal details, they can use them to steal funds from your account, access confidential information that you have access to, or create false documents with your identity. Hackers can also use your personal information to plan criminal activities or claim tax benefits on your behalf.

In recent years, identity theft has seen unprecedented growth. According to statistics, almost 17 million Americans were victims of this type of cybercrime in 2017, an increase of 10% over 2016. Stealing personal data from other people has earned hackers almost 17 billion dollars in 2017 alone.

  1. Exploits Kits

As the name suggests, exploit kits are collections of exploits, software components designed to take advantage of bugs and security flaws on computers. Instead of having to develop those kits from scratch, hackers can buy them ready-made on the dark web. Furthermore, victims do not even have to visit a malicious website for their computer to be infected. Cybercriminals can hack into any legitimate page and anchor an invisible HTML tag that neither the page owner nor the victim will see until it is too late.

When you visit a compromised page, the kit will look for any vulnerabilities on your computer. This may include an expired version of the browser that contains a specific bug or security software that is using out-of-date virus definitions. This, instead, will allow hackers to monitor your online activity, steal your personal information, and gain access to files stored on your computer’s hard drive.

  1. Ransomware

Ransomware is malicious software that ejects the victim off their computer or blocks access to files stored on their hard drive. The only way for the victim to regain access to their computer is to pay several hundred dollars as a ransom, according to instructions given by the hacker. In order for the victim not to report the incident to the police, the hackers will try to convince them that the local law enforcement authorities are already involved through the use of their logos and other images in the ransom note.

Since 2013, various types of ransomware have infected millions of computers and networks around the world, resulting in billions of dollars in losses to businesses and financial institutions. To avoid being caught, many hackers are now asking for ransom in cryptocurrency.

Examples of cybercrime

With the growth of online criminal activities, new examples of cybercrime can be found in the technology news almost daily. Some of the most notable cybercrimes in recent years include the following:

  • The Yahoo! In 2013 –  In 2013, cybercriminals hacked into the Yahoo mail service and took access to the names, addresses and phone numbers of at least 500 million registered users. It was later revealed that hackers compromised all 3 billion registered accounts. The result was the most massive data breach to date.
  • The Cyber ​​Attack on Dyn in 2016  – In October 2016, a series of DDoS attacks against Domain Name System provider Dyn brought down several popular websites and services, including Twitter, Spotify, Netflix, PayPal, and Amazon.
  • IRS Data Breach in 2015  – In 2015, the Internal Revenue Service was hacked by cybercriminals who managed to steal more than 700,000 Social Security numbers, as well as other associated personal information. The attack was carried out through exploit kits that took advantage of official IRS software used by taxpayers to check their tax records.

How to protect yourself from cybercrime

The effects of cyber crime can be devastating. This is why you should consider protecting yourself from them. First of all, you need to use the best antivirus software to ensure that your computer is protected from adware, spyware, ransomware, and any other type of malicious software. Keep all software on your computer always up to date to prevent hackers from gaining access to your personal information.  

If you find suspicious mail in your inbox, do not open any attachments or click on any links in them. Always use strong passwords that combine letters, numbers, and symbols. Make sure you have a different password for each service you use. If you need help keeping your passwords organized, you can use a reliable password manager. You might also consider using a paid virtual private network (VPN) to add an extra layer of protection when browsing the internet on a public Wi-Fi connection.

Like any software on your computer, you need to keep your antivirus program regularly updated as well. Using the best antivirus software for Mac will allow you to monitor the health of your computer in real time. Schedule regular scanners to make sure threats don’t go unnoticed. These programs will also check for automatic database updates, thus keeping your computer protected against the latest threats.