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What is Cybercrime? Types, & Tips to Prevent Cybercrime

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India’s aggressively growing population of smartphone users who are consistently browsing might be a great sign for the eCommerce industry. At the same time, it is a significant catalyst for digital payments, social commerce, and the services industry. However, more connected systems don’t always lead to better security systems. That is the reason why India is also becoming the epicentre of cybercrime.

Cybercrime includes a wide range of criminal activities conducted over the cyberspace that can infringe your privacy, compromise sensitive data such as your bank details or medical records, or straightaway lead to ransom and blackmailing. In 2017, India lost about $18 billion due to cybercrime and also witnessed an increase in the cybercrime of about 121% between 2016 and 2018.

Such aggressive growth in the digital ecosystem and the rise in cybercrime calls for immediate attention. The first step to eliminating any major challenge is understanding the gravity of the situation and then preparing yourself to mitigate all the risks. In this post, we will go through the definition of what is cybercrime, understanding its types, and eventually establishing a list of best practices that can give you reasonable safety against cybercrime.


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What is Cybercrime?

Cybercrime’s definition has evolved with time. The simplest way to define it would be to include all the crimes committed in cyberspace or digital networks, under the bucket of cybercrime. This would consist of child pornography, intellectual property theft, privacy breach, financial fraud, bullying on social media, or other crimes.

Britannica has taken a more intuitive approach to demarcate cybercrime from other criminal activities – apart from taking place in the realm of cyberspace, cybercrime also breaks the conventional use of jurisdictions and generally tends to attack our data.

Hence, irrespective of where you are, a cybercriminal can attempt to target your private information that will be used with malicious intent. This individual or organization might be formalized or even be subsidized by some government entity. Thus, over the last few years, as data has become more critical, cybercrime has become a wide-ranging activity that is executed by both individual criminals and organized forms of criminal organizations.

Types of Cybercrime

Now that we have outlined the intuitive definition of cybercrime, it is critical to understand the types of challenges posed by cybercrime to businesses and individuals. The best way to do this would be by understanding the major forms of cybercriminal activities:

1. Data and Privacy Breach for Identity Theft

Simply collecting your personal information is a major crime in itself. However, it generally pans out into some form of identity theft. Your personal information is used to digital impersonate you and get access to your finances, social media account, personal email ID, etc.

Those resources can then be used in several malicious forms. Such data and privacy breach can occur if your credit card is stolen, email ID is hacked, or you are made to download malicious software sent to you in an email or on a pirated file.

2. Transactional Cybercrime

The key characteristic of this type of fraud is that it makes you conduct a transaction that gives the criminal your money or compromises your personal information. This type of fraud generally involves telling the victim some form of a story that may include a money-laundering scheme, an individual seeking rescue, or an illegitimate non-profit asking for a donation.

Instead of stealing your identity, the motive is to ask you to make a small transaction. Then, the person on the other end would exacerbate whatever issue was mentioned earlier and tell you that your money has been stuck. This continues till you don’t stop transferring the money. It is also referred to as Nigerian Fraud because of its popular origins.

The other two forms of fraud conducted in this type of cybercrime include ATM and Wire frauds. In both cases, the cybercriminal would try to get the information specific to your ATM card or your Wire transfer. Then, either the money would be withdrawn midway of a wire transfer, or several duplicate cards would be created to withdraw money from your account or on your credit card.

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3. Piracy and Counterfeiting

This form of cybercrime is more common among people who wouldn’t be conventionally defined as cybercriminals. Unlike other forms of cybercrimes, this type of crime is committed to consuming data or content that would otherwise require going through a paywall. Movies, series, articles, books, and video games are a common form of content pirated.

While the person engaging in piracy is committing a crime with intellectual property theft and illegal distribution, the same person is also exposing herself to cybercrime. Platforms that are generally used for piracy are not regulated by government or general security standards. Hence, they can be used by cybercriminals for extracting information or attacking people who are there to download content.

The other side of this relationship is when the seller defrauds you. It is commonly executed on eCommerce platforms where an illegitimate product is made to look like a genuine one and sold at the same or marginally lower price. The main challenge of this fraud is that you don’t get to know that you have gone through a fraudulent transaction until you have received or, sometimes, started using the counterfeit product.

4. Hacking

This is one of the most common forms of cybercrimes. An attacker would try to get unauthorized access to your computer system, email account, or social media account. The methods to execute such hacks can be as sophisticated as sending you an email, which makes you click on a malicious link that gives access to your computer or merely guessing your password to an account.

There is also a community of ‘white hat hackers.’ These are hackers on the commission of major companies who are helping the company understand the possible vulnerabilities in their systems. Such hackers don’t intend to hack your system.

5. Viruses, Ransomware, and Malware

For businesses, this type of cybercrime has become a significant threat. The attacker would try to install some form of virus on your system.

Then, the software would try to extract essential information or just lock your system down. After this, you will receive instructions to transfer money using cryptocurrencies or other forms of transactions to get your system unlocked. Several banks and government institutions have reported witnessing such ransomware attacks.

6. Spamming and Denial-of-Service

Such attacks are orchestrated to help the attack get fake traffic or send fake emails to your server in a very large quantity. Generally, it is done to stop you from conducting your everyday business or just to block the presence of other people on a highly sought-after eCommerce event such as a flash sale or sale of concert tickets.

Tips to Prevent Cybercrime

Now that we have mapped out the possible forms of cybercrimes, you must have accumulated a deeper understanding of cyberspace’s possible threats. Here are 11 tips you can use to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your business from being attacked by cybercriminals:

1. Keep Your Security and Software Systems Updated

One of the easiest ways to avoid security breaches is by buying the licensed version of an antivirus system for your home, work, and personal computer systems. Other than that, make sure all your apps, software, and OS updates are checked. Attackers can use outdated systems that are no longer supported by the developers, as a channel to pass malicious software into your system.

2. Don’t Open Spam Mails and Never Download an Attachment from a Spam Mail.

Never open a spam mail, even if it has a very enticing headline, offer, or brand name. If the offer is genuine, the company will reach out to you in some other form. In case you end up opening a spam mail, make sure you don’t download any attachments or share any information as a response to the mail.

3. Check the ATM System for Censors Before You Transact.

ATM Systems are often bugged with sensors that can record your finger’s movements across the numeric keypad. This is later used to know your password. Make sure you check each ATM system thoroughly before you enter your password into it. If you find an ATM in a suspicious location, don’t engage with it altogether. Use a safe e-wallet to make payments.

4. Never Engage with an Unknown Person for Financial Transactions of Any Form.

While you might already be aware of this, make sure your near and dear ones also understand the risk of engaging in financial transactions with unknown people. This includes any emails you receive asking for funds or even risky eCommerce websites which may have counterfeited products.

5. Do Not Use Unknown Machines for Making Financial Transactions

Nowadays as many mobile banking related frauds are occurring so try not to use a laptop, phone, or PC that does not belong to you, for making financial transactions. It is best to rely on your security system. It is very easy to hide a malicious app or software in someone else’s system. Such apps can record your personal information and later use it for unlawful activities.

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6. Avoid Using Public WiFi

Public WiFi is commonly available in malls, public areas, and airports. These networks are infamous for being easy to vulnerabilities. Make sure you use a VPN to mask your IP address if you have to use the public WiFi.

7. Enable Two-Factor Authentication for All Your Social Media, Email, and Bank Accounts

This generally includes a combination of a password, an OTP, and a security question. By using two-factor authentication, you ensure that even if your password is compromised, the attacker will not be able to access your account. Popular social media websites and bank apps do provide such features as it is one of the most important social networking hygiene tips.

8. Check Every Website’s HTTPS to Understand Its Legitimacy

HTTPS is the most basic format of standardized security measures. It ensures that the website you are using is safe for browsing. When you are making an online transaction, you will also see additional encryption measures enabled by the website to secure your debit and credit card information. If you don’t see the HTTPS verified, don’t proceed with browsing the website.

9. Don’t Consume Pirated Content of Any Form.

Irrespective of how fond you are of the content, don’t use websites that provide pirated versions for free. Generally, it is very difficult to ensure that the file you are downloading is safe for consumption until you have actually downloaded it. Besides, by doing so, you will also save yourself from intellectual property breach and engaging in illegal trade.

10. Don’t Share Your Password; Not Even with People You Trust.

While this may seem uncalled for – do not share your password even with the people you trust. You might be taking all the security measures. But that does not mean even your near and dear ones have similar measures of security installed in their systems.

When their system gets compromised, your passwords will also get compromised. At the same time, if your system is compromised, you will have to involve their system for verification as well, since they had your password. An easy way to avoid all of this is by not sharing your password in the first place.

11. Use Stronger Passwords and Change Them Frequently

A strong password is generally a combination of running and capital letters, numbers, and a punctuation mark. Make sure you remember your password correctly and change it every few months.

What is the effect of cybercrime?

Cybercrime can result in loss of personal/proprietary information, identity theft, and financial loss. Beyond that, it also leaves the system compromised and makes you spend more money in recouping the damages, going through system repair, and depending on the type of attack conducted, the victim may also need counseling from a trained professional.

What is the main cause of cybercrime?

Cybercrime is generally a result of suboptimal security measures, irresponsible browsing, and even careless sharing of sensitive data. That said, even people who have been vigilant about safeguarding their digital experiences can witness cybercrime if they are not careful enough while conducting financial transactions. Both the cybercriminal and the carelessness of the victim are generally responsible for cybercrime. In cases like piracy, the person downloading the content is the perpetrator but may end up getting attacked by cybercriminals, making himself a victim at a later stage.

How can we stop cybercrime?

We can stop cybercrime by understanding the possible forms it can take. Once we have understood the general types of cybercrimes, we can simply focus on basic measures like having an antivirus system, keeping your systems updated, having strong passwords which are changed frequently & not shared with anyone, not engaging in piracy, not engaging with spam emails, and being vigilant about our information whenever we are conducting a financial transaction.

Who is the common target of cyberattacks?

People and companies all over the world are on the radar of cybercriminals. Banks and financial institutions are considered to be common targets, along with young adults who might not be aware of the cybercrime space.

Why is cybercrime increasing?

It is increasing because people don't entirely understand the severity of cybercrime. While law enforcement authorities are coming up with measures to tackle cybercrime, it has been on the rise primarily because we live in a more connected and digital world. Hence, many criminals are now making cybercrime their primary line of business, shifting from off the line crimes. If we are mindful of our browsing and transactions, we can stop ourselves from getting attacked by such cyber criminals.

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