What is cybercrime?

Cybercrime is a name used for different types of crime and illegal activities that take place on the internet/online or where technology is involved to target or attack a victim’s computer and network.

Cybercriminals range from rogue individuals to organised crime groups and even state-sponsored actors. They are incredibly organised and professional with online fraud and facilitate their activities to maximise their profit in the shortest time.

It is one of the fastest growing criminal activities across the world with new trends constantly emerging and several million cases reported to the police every year.

It can affect both individuals and businesses, even the government, and anyone can be a victim of cybercrime whether you are young, old, or a business. You can be scammed out of money or important data and cybercriminals then buy and sell this data which is then used to commit further crime.

There are many forms of cybercrime.

Malware

Malware is the term used for any type of attack with malicious software and is used to attack your computer systems without you knowing. There are many different types of malware each working differently to pursue its own goals.

Viruses, worms, trojans, botnets, spyware, adware, rootkits, and ransomware all come under the definition of malware.

Malware is an infection that is downloaded inadvertently, maybe by clicking a link in an email or visiting a malicious website or even through file sharing which then infects your device. No device is immune from malware.

Virus

Like the flu where a virus cannot reproduce without a host cell, a computer virus cannot reproduce without a host file or document.

A computer virus is designed to spread from one computer to another. Once it attaches itself to a legitimate programme or document, it will then lie dormant until you run the infected programme, then the virus code will be executed.

It has the ability to cause severely damaging effects like corrupting or destroying data, stealing passwords and even spamming your email contacts.

Worms

Unlike a virus,worms do not need to attach themselves to a programme or document. Instead, they enter computers through the vulnerability of the network, quickly moving from one computer to another A worm operates independently of other files and remains active on all infected devices with the potential to disrupt systems worldwide.

Trojans

A trojan is a form of malware that is designed to look like legitimate software. It pretends to be useful and innocent and is often hidden in games or other programmes. Although it cannot replicate itself it can be very destructive and once you have accepted it on your computer it will start it’s destruction.

It can steal information such as passwords, files, and bank details. The cyber criminal may even have the ability to take over your computer.

Botnets

The term botnet comes from the words ‘robot’ and ‘network’. Bots, or zombies as they are sometimes known, is the device that has been infected and net is part of the network. Once one device on a network is compromised other devices on the same network become vulnerable and can be easily infected.

Botnet malware will look for vulnerable devices across the internet. The objective of the botnet is to infect as many connected devices as possible so that the criminal can then gain unauthorized access and remotely manage the botnet and sell the information obtained onto other criminals.

Spyware

Spyware is quite sneaky because it finds its way onto your device without your permission and gathers information about you. It is used to steal data and personal information and once it is on your computer or mobile device it records and tracks your information and activities, and can copy and monitor everything you do. Spyware can be installed when you open an email or other programme containing malicious software.

Adwaree

Adware is designed to display advertisements on your computer or mobile device. It uses your browser to collect your browsing history to target you with advertisements tailored to your interests, while generating revenue for its owner who earns money every time you click on one of the ads shown.

They can also sell your browsing history to third parties so even if you switch browsers the ads will not stop because adware lives on the operating system itself. Although adware can be annoying it is not normally a threat to your computer.

Rootkit

Rootkit allows someone to maintain command and control over your device without you knowing. It is a clandestine programme to provide access to your computer while hiding its presence. It’s controller can take charge of your device and change configuration settings and access files on the computer. They can install other malicious malware to steal data and even though you might not notice, they are active and ready to steal your credit card or online banking information and your personal and confidential information.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a malicious software that is designed to block access to your computer until a sum of money is paid.

It can be downloaded in many ways usually via unwittingly visiting malicious compromised websites, or through an attachment from a spam email. Once your computer is infected with ransomware it blocks access and can encrypt data on your system.

The cybercriminals then demand you pay a ransom to regain access. If you are a victim of ransomware do not pay the ransom as it does not guarantee the return of your data; these are criminals and the attackers may assume you would be open to pay ransoms in the future.

DDoS Attack

Distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) is a malicious attack to disrupt normal traffic of a targeted server, network, or service, by targeting the infrastructure with an overwhelming flood of unwanted internet traffic from multiple botnet computers.

The server or network receives more traffic than it can accommodate which then prevents the regular traffic arriving at the desired destination. The network then ceases to work taking the site offline.

This may be combined with a threat of further attacks unless a ransom is paid.

Dark Web

The dark web or darknet is a part of the internet that is hidden away and not readily available to the general public. It gives users anonymity with hidden IP addresses; you can only access them with special anonymity browsers, the most common one named The Onion Router (TOR).

The TOR browser connects you to the internet through the TOR network. In order to protect your identity and location, you are directed through a network of servers before your final destination is reached.

Like an onion having multiple layers, your data is protected with multiple layers of encryption giving you complete privacy and it is almost impossible for your activity to be traced back to you through the complex network of TOR.

Although the dark web is used by criminals looking to buy or sell illegal goods like guns, weapons, drugs and stolen data, it is not just for criminals. It can also be a safe haven for whistle-blowers, journalists and others to share information that they cannot do publicly in case of retribution or persecution.

Individuals can also use it to look for identity theft, buy legal goods anonymously, buy restricted goods that may be available in another country but not theirs or even expose abuses of power. There are numerous positive things you can do on the dark web.

Fighting cybercrime

Most cyber-attacks and data breaches can be prevented. To ensure you don’t become a victim, use a strong password and use different passwords for different logins. Try and the keep the passwords at a minimum of a mix of 10 letters, numbers and characteristics, such as *,#,! Etc.

Don’t use the same passwords for all of your accounts. Cybercriminals will try every account in your name with that password and quite often, they succeed.

Install anti-virus software (McAfee is free for 12 months with your Notty account) and use two factor authentications on logins for any accounts you have wherever you can.

Keep security software and operating systems updated; you can set this to happen automatically. Companies frequently update their security measures in their updates.

If you are a victim of cyber crime or identity theft, please report it to Action Fraud by clicking the link or call them on 0300 123 2040. They are open Monday to Friday 8am - 8pm. If you are calling from abroad please call +44 300 123 2040.

Your Notty account also searches the dark web for you, with up to five pieces of information, and alerts you if anything is found. Stay safe with Notty.