Cybercrimes are at an all-time high right now, and it started with the pandemic and has continued well into 2021. Have you ever wondered what makes cyber criminals tick? What motivates them, and what is their ultimate goal?
The State of Cyber Crime
Political unrest, racial tension, and the pandemic have fueled a tidal wave of cyber crime over the past two years. People are more aware than ever before of what cyber crime is and that they are at risk of identity theft and fraud as each time they go online to perform everyday functions. Due to the low cost of cell phones and easy access to the internet, everyone online is at risk.
Technology has seeped into every area of life-improving efficiency and even adding some fun, but it also exposes us to online threats through various methods. According to law enforcement, cybercrimes are the fastest growing of any other type of illegal activity. To keep up with these crimes and thwart criminals, national governments, law enforcement agencies, and individuals need to understand the trending cybercrimes and how to respond and stay safe.
Most companies and government agencies are not fully equipped to adequately deal with cyber crime. As these attacks increase and become more complex, funding is allocated to developing better technologies and detection methods. Response teams are heavily relied upon to audit systems and provide a blueprint for changes that need to be made. In addition, governments are enacting new laws to handle these crimes swiftly and provide a framework for the investigation, apprehension, and punishment of those responsible.
What are Some Trending Cybercrimes?
Cybercrimes include a wide variety of illegal activities perpetrated using a computer. Young people, teens, and the elderly are often the chosen targets due to their ignorance of the signs of cyber crime and tendency to trust strangers.
Cybercrimes tend to fall into one of two categories. Type I is a single event, and Type II is a series of ongoing attacks or repeated interactions with the target (often using social engineering tactics to gain their trust). According to Science Direct, these may include "cyber defamation, cyber harassment, child predation, identity theft, extortion, travel scam, stock market manipulation, complex corporate espionage, planning or carrying out terrorist activities, health care, insurance/bonds frauds, auction frauds, fake escrow scams, blackmail, non-delivery of merchandise, newsgroup scams, credit card frauds, email spoofing, salami attacks, data diddling, sabotage web jacking, spamming, DoS, software piracy, forgery, etc."
There is also a Type III which refers to someone performing cyber crime for the purpose of revenge.
Most Common Types of Cyber Crime
- Phishing - Bad actors use fake emails to pretend to be a company or individual to gain trust, so the recipient clicks a link or downloads an attachment infecting their machine with malware, spyware, or ransomware.
- Cyber Harassment - Bullies use cybercrimes to harass people or get them to hand over information.
- Spam Email - Email accounts are hijacked to send spam email that looks legitimate because it comes from real accounts.
- Ransomware - Ransomware is one of the most prevalent cybercrimes used today to encrypt and exfiltrate data and demand money in the form of ransom.
- Identity Theft - Often, criminals take over victims' computers and gain access to their personal information so they can impersonate them for monetary gain. They may do this through various stages of fraud.
Why Do Cyber Criminals Do What They Do?
Cybercriminals may target individuals, companies, and even governments with a motive of intentionally harming the reputation, causing physical, mental, or another type of harm, or using their equipment to form malicious networks (botnets). They may use social media, chat rooms, emails, forums, and text messaging to accomplish their tasks.
In the past, cybercriminals tended to be individuals looking to break into networks to further a cause or steal information or money. The newest breed of cybercriminals now work in gangs, often funded by foreign governments with the goal of spying on the U.S. or disrupting services, government agencies, or stealing money.
Cyber Crime Goals
The goal for many of these cyber crime organizations is personal information. User credentials, social security numbers, driver's license numbers, credit card numbers, banking info, and other personal details fetch a hefty sum on the dark web where cybercriminals trade the spoils from data breaches and hacks. They use this information for identity theft or to sell to other hackers.
Another common goal is to disrupt operations and force consumer behavior. Advertisers use adware and other legal forms of tracking to monitor consumer behavior to push customized, personalized ads and direct purchases.
The main goal of most cyber crime is to make money. Criminals accomplish this in a variety of ways. Ransomware has become an effective tool hacker groups use to encrypt data and exfiltrate the information. They use a one-two punch method to demand a ransom to unlock the data and then threaten to expose the information if the money is not paid on time. Often, they leak the stolen data anyway, even if the ransom is paid.
What Is Cyber Crime
Regardless of whether or not cyber crime is aimed at individuals or companies, the fact remains that it is an exploitation of human weakness. Some cyber crime is damaging to our government and society as a whole. The idea of it fills individuals with fear and insecurity. Another result of the growing trend is damage to property, computers and mobile devices, and large company servers and equipment used to support life and fill the needs of society.
To say that cyber crime is an epidemic of its own is not an understatement. The last two years have underlined how ill-equipped we as a nation are at handling the problem. As quickly as we thwart one attack, another is underway. The good guys cannot keep up with the bad.
Most alarming is the cyber crime designed to undermine our way of life. Foreign countries that spy to gather information to use against our nation as a whole or disrupt our way of life are the most despicable of all.