Cybercrime What Does It Mean To You?


cybercrimeOver the last few years we have posted several articles about antivirus, anti-malware and how to protect yourself from identity theft. We have talked about the privacy or non-privacy you might experience in your operating system and the sites you visit. All that is fine and good but what does it really mean. Have you been hacked? Has someone actually stolen your identity or taken property or money from you as a result of a “Cyber Attack?

If you watch TV or go to the movies you no doubt have seen more and more story lines revolving around Cybercrimes, but is any of this realistic and if it is, is it likely? There is no doubt that it exists and there is no doubt that Hollywood

loves scaring the average user, it is their job after all, to entertain you, not enlighten you, and stories about someone receiving pop-ups on their computer will not be making it to the big screen anytime soon.

Mr.-Robot-So, I wondered, how likely are any of the scenarios portrayed in movies and TV shows. If you are like me and know a little about computers, you know that these are very unlikely scenarios and I have a hard time accepting some of the equally unlikely abilities of and the number of “super-hackers”.  To me, it is a lot like watching a crime drama where they get the DNA of a criminal before the detective makes it back to the station. So, does taking an action that is possible and presenting it as probable, or as a certainty, dilute the reality?

Criminals taking control of your car’s computer, hacking your computerized prosthetic arm, or inducing a heart attack with your pacemaker is very very unlikely. Hacking into NASA to take control of military drones or for government agencies to take down the nation’s power grids make for good story lines and, while some of these things have already happened in the real world, it is more of something that might happen than is actually happening. According to Brian Murphy, ex Defense Department’s network security unit, “No computer hacker has yet shut down an electrical grid or opened a dam.” So, I ask once again, what does this mean to you and me.


What is CyberCrime

CSI_Cyber[1]First of all, what is cybercrime and how pervasive is it?
Cybercrime is any crime affecting an individual or group of individuals carried out by the use of a computer. It has grown so much that it is now bigger than illegal drug trafficking as far as making money for criminals. According to Symantec “somebody’s identity is stolen every 3 seconds as a result of cybercrime and your computer can become infected within four minutes after connecting to the internet if you are not protected by a software or hardware protection solution“.  A large part of this increase is due to the incredible number of targets available to computer hackers.

Statistics

In 2011 there were 431 million adult victims of cybercrime in 24 countries. There are 14 cybercrime victims every second and over a million adults affected per day. At least 81% of cybercrime is achieved through hacking, while 59% is achieved with malware that a user invites into their computer through free music, games and porn, etc.  The sad part of these statistics is that not all instances are even reported so the numbers are probably even bigger.

Should You Be Afraid?

Yes, scare tactics aside, there is a real and likely probability that you have or will become infected with malware or fall victim to identity theft. Particularly, if you have not already taken the safety measures to prevent it. Even then you must be constantly vigilant to keep yourself safe. I am always amazed at the statements of fellow computer enthusiasts who claim they are 100% safe because they know what they are doing. However, they fail to keep in mind that the one time your grandchild, spouse, or friend uses your computer and clicks on something they should not have, their system will be infected.

Scenarios and Solutions

hackersMost instances revolve around two types of intrusion, the first is when “you” the user downloads a Trojan horse virus. Most savvy computer users know how to avoid this type of virus but it can still happen and does so frequently with less knowledgeable users.

The virus has the ability to install loggers on your machine and track (log) the keystrokes you make. Even a simple type of Trojan can give a hacker your passwords, credit card numbers and other private information. Once they have your passwords, it is really a simple matter of logging into your accounts and doing as they please.


The other method and the one capable of fooling even a hardened defender is to become infected through a technique called phishing, this is normally when an individual clicks on an email from a trusted website, such as your banking site or any other legitimate site, and is in fact really a fake front embedded with a virus or malware.

The reason this technique is more dangerous is because hackers have evolved and use your own trust against you. For example, once they hack an individual they will then send email to people using the names found in their contacts list. Many of these lists contain the contacts, connection with the user, birthdays, and other comments about the contact.

Imagine receiving an email from your mother with title, “You won’t believe what your dad was doing when we took this photo”. My guess is most people are going to click on that link and open it. Instead of your dad it is a virus. It can be that simple.

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

I believe that each of these tactics can be thwarted by taking a few common sense precautions. I am not going to go into great detail on how to prevent data loss because, as I have mentioned, the authors on this site have given you many reliable ways to prevent hackers from accessing your computer, but perhaps the thing we forget to remind lockyou is that the biggest, strongest and most unbreakable lock in the world is useless if you give away the key. So with that in mind.

  1. Keep others off of our computer. Simple enough. If they have to use it, then give them an account with restrictions that deny administrative rights. Make sure that only you can make any changes to the system.
  2. Prevent downloads from all but authorized sites in their profile
  3. Scan every download and email attachment no matter the source. Yes, even your spouse or parents.
  4. Keep your social networking off of any computer which also includes sensitive data.
  5. Turn off any Wi-Fi device when not in use.

The numbers of serious hacks is alarming but in reality, we are still just a small part of the internet presence.

The criminals work hard to beat our defenses because of the potential profits that can be made by hacking. However, we are getting smarter, becoming more aware and many of us are taking the steps to ensure that not only us but our friends are protected.

Safe Computing… Jim

 

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About the Author

Jim Canfield

My interest in computers was a natural transition from all things electronics. I was hooked after building my first Heathkit computer around 1976, which evolved into a TSR80 and a long list of Windows computers. My first full blown program was a graphics program which started my career path in graphic design and IT work for 40 years. I now run a small computer repair and service company focused on helping veterans and retirees in our area with computer and software training classes.

5 Comments

  1. My comment on staying safer might be looked onto as being ridiculous, but it’s worth consideration. Unless you have real need for a wireless system, connecting via wire works.

    Most people who have wifi in their homes are novices, and are more likely to share their service, than have it attacked, but “the times are a changing”, Mindblower!

    • Mindblower, I don’t disagree with the idea but the practicality of it. Which you probably what you meant when you said times are a changing. I think in most cases wireless really is needed and unavoidable. For example, I have personally wired my house so that my wireless TV, Xbox, DVR and DVD units are hard wired. Of course my desktops are hard wired as well. However I do it more for speed than safety. Unfortunately, that is not all I have. I don’t know what I would do without wireless for my Kindles, tablet laptop or smartphones. So while I do keep as much as I can hard wired, it is unlikely that most people would be able to. In my area where I do a lot of house calls for computers, most houses have these items I mentioned but only one hookup either DSL or cable and no way to run a wire (inexpensively for them) so everything is wireless. That is why I recommend to turn the wireless feature off on any device not in use.

  2. Just did a post in the W7 forum which is a perfect example of what happens when a PC is turned into a “FAMILY AFFAIR” with no restrictions on the “USERS”. Took me about 4 days to get that PC cleaned and back up and running.

  3. Hi Jim

    I’ve got a problem. That Four Virus pop-up KEEPS popping up on my android! I’ve followed the advice of Malwaretips.com and deleted apps I’ve downloaded, even though there aren’t many and they came from Play Store. I’m pretty careful about downloading apps that have advertisements and lots of permissions that I don’t think they really need. In addition, I have Malwarebytes on my phone and it keeps telling me that my “device is safe”.

    A couple of months ago, I started getting porn messages (pornhub I think) from “Chrome”. No clue as to why. I never opened any of it. I did contact “Chrome” and said I wanted it to STOP. I did stop getting the messages the next day, but I’ve been getting those Four Virus pop-ups at an increased rate.

    I don’t know what to do and it is severely interrupting my online searching abilities. Any advice or assistance you may have would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you – Luci

    • Luci, this problem can be caused by a few things, most of them are not actually viruses or malware but fall under the category of PUP’s Potentially Unwanted Programs and AdWare. I would suggest that if you are using Chrome, you want to delete any saved cookies that might be causing the problem. Try using “Click and Clean” this is an extension for chrome or firefox. After installing it use it to delete any history, cookies, internet cache. The program is free and useful. If you wish, after it fixes the problem you may uninstall it but I usually keep a copy of chrome with it installed. Another option would be to download a copy of sandboxie and run your browser within sandboxie, nothing you open or download while within sandboxie can attack your computer because it keeps everything in a shell, when you close sandboxie, everything disappears, even if you down a virus while within sandboxie. Hope this help, If I can be of additional help, please let me know.

      Jim