You have probably heard about cybercrime but perhaps you don’t know how it could affect you personally. You may feel that it isn’t something to worry about particularly, after all, you have your Windows firewall turned on so what could go wrong?
Here are some of the things you may want to be aware of when considering how to protect your computer and your data.
What is cybercrime?
This type of crime involves an individual or an organization using a computer to target another or perhaps a network. Cybercrime is basically any computer-oriented criminal activity.
It could involve identity thefts, hacking accounts, transferring funds illegally, and many other crimes. Below are some of the activities that cybercriminals carry out and ways to protect yourself.
There are many ways that hackers try to take your money and this is a particularly nasty one. It is a form of malware that can hijack your computer and data until a fee or ransom is paid. It comes in various forms but they all want one thing, cash. Usually, the victim will be given a time limit, for example, 72 hours to pay anything from $100 to $300. If the criminal was targeting a company the ransom may be much higher. The real problem with ransomware is it has the ability to jump from one computer to another infecting a whole business network quickly.
This is another form of ransomware in which a program has been installed on your computer to act like another legitimate piece of software. You may receive a warning that you are infected and that your files can only be unlocked by paying a fee to upgrade your antivirus. Other times it may be software impersonating law enforcement and telling you that you have been performing illegal activities online and that you need to pay a fine.
This crime is particularly unpleasant as it often targets teenagers. The cybercriminal uses the webcam to video the user in a compromising position and then threatens to release the video to the victim’s contact list unless money is paid. According to the NCA or National Crime Agency, this crime targets both men and women and is often run by organized crime gangs.
Things to be aware of
Viruses and malware cannot physically infect your computer in a way that humans catch colds and other illnesses. They have to be allowed in. This is where you get to have some control over keeping your computer and network safe.
Be careful with emails
When you go into your inbox you are entering a minefield. A work inbox is likely to have better security and filter out the junk but one of the free mail services like Hotmail and Gmail can fill up with spam quickly.
Much of the junk mail is nothing to worry about but there will be phishing emails trying to get you to send your personal details and others may contain viruses. One of the worst ransomware viruses, Cryptolocker was spread throughout hundreds of thousands of devices by hiding in seemingly innocuous emails from FedEx and other legitimate companies. Be careful when opening emails especially from companies or people that you don’t know or have any dealings with.
Millions of users download every day. This may be software, games, apps, or torrents. Using legitimate sites reduces the risk of infection but even downloads from what seems like a good website may come with spyware.
Using a Virtual Private Network is a great way to reduce risk of your information being exposed and at the same time, they will hide your IP address which reduces the risk of someone finding your actual physical address. They often come free but paid versions will have extra features such as antivirus and protection against being redirected to malicious websites.
Learning about how these crimes happen and how your computer could be exposed means that you will be that much safer online. If you have a real interest in this area then a Master’s in cybersecurity might be your way into making a career in fighting against this growing problem. For the average home user, it is usually as simple as being aware of your online surroundings as you would your physical ones.
Cybercrime comes in many forms. They can be as simple as an online auction sale being used to gather your personal and financial details to use in identity theft. Others are more complex and attacks on large corporations are regular. Updating your antivirus software, using a good VPN, and being aware of what you open and download will go a long way into making you safe.