It’s no secret that the expansion of the Internet benefitted the entire world in one way or another. Unfortunately, that also includes criminals. The digital world is ripe with opportunities for malicious activities, and there are individuals out there waiting to seize each one of them. With this in mind, how can true prevention of cyber crimes be achieved?

In this article, I will discuss the concept of cyber crimes at length, starting with their definition and illustrating it with examples. I will also provide some interesting statistics on cyber crime and its current situation during the COVID-19 pandemic. As always, stay tuned until the end for a few pieces of actionable advice on the most important topic at hand here, namely the prevention of cyber crimes.

What is Cyber Crime?

Encyclopedia Britannica defines cyber crime as:

the use of a computer as an instrument to further illegal ends, such as committing fraud, trafficking in child pornography and intellectual property, stealing identities, or violating privacy. Cybercrime, especially through the Internet, has grown in importance as the computer has become central to commerce, entertainment, and government.

Needless to say, the type of criminal behavior associated with cyber crime has existed long before computers were invented. However, the apparition of advanced electronic devices with the potential to connect to the Internet and reach anyone and anywhere in the world has exacerbated these wrongdoings. In the next section of the article, I will go over the many types of cyber crimes out there that you need to be aware of.

Types of Cyber Crimes

Encyclopedia Britannica identifies 12 separate types of cyber crimes, namely child pornography, Internet fraud, ATM fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, piracy, forgery, sabotage, hacking, computer viruses, DDoS attacks, and malspam. The former is arguably the most reprehensive on the list, as it consists of images of children under the age of 18 involved in inappropriate sexual situations.

It’s no secret that legal and consensual adult content is a profitable business and a harbinger of social reform at times even. Websites such as PornHub have gained immense popularity in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when they offered free subscriptions for users to enjoy at home. However, its success, unfortunately, mirrors that’s of illegal child pornography, which is a $3 billion a year industry that operates in over 10,000 Internet locations.

While the filming, distribution, and viewing of child pornography are prohibited in the United States, the European Union, and several other countries, there are still a few places around the world where cyber crime laws aren’t strong enough to stop this tactlessly booming industry. Raising awareness on the topic is essential for the prevention of cyber crimes in this category, as is advocating for appropriate regulations regarding them.

The topic of child pornography warrants a separate discussion given its severity. For the purpose of this article, I have merged the remainder 11 types of cyber crimes into four large categories:

  • Financial fraud;
  • Data replication;
  • And cyberattacks.

Let’s have a brief look at each one so that you can better understand what cyber crimes are before we dive into the prevention of cyber crimes.

Financial Fraud

According to Investopedia, financial fraud occurs when someone unlawfully procures money or other valuable assets from you through deception or criminal activity. Four of the 12 types of cyber crimes listed by Encyclopedia Britannica fall into this category.

  • Identity theft
  • Internet fraud
  • ATM fraud
  • Wire fraud

Identity theft happens when a person uses another person’s personally identifiable information, such as their name, personal identity code, or credit card number, to commit fraud or other cyber crimes. While its application is not limited to financial fraud, it is usually associated with this type of illegal activity.

Internet fraud is defined as the practice of providing victims with misleading or incorrect information to trick them out of their money, properties, or inheritances. The most famous instance of it is the Nigerian prince scam, which consists of a series of deceiving emails requesting large bank transfers.

ATM fraud might not be what you typically consider a cyber crime, but offenders use computers and other digital means to carry it out. Over time, they have developed methods to intercept both the user’s PIN, as well as the data on the card’s magnetic strip. This allows them to create a fake card and withdraw money from the victim’s account.

Wire fraud first appeared in 1994, when a Russian programmer by the name of Vladimir Levin illegitimately wire transferred $10 million from Citibank into several accounts located in Tel Aviv, San Francisco, Amsterdam, and several other European cities. The issue remains widespread in the 21st century as well.

Data Replication

The term data replication refers to the copying of information and assets for ulterior use. While there are many perfectly legal ways to do it, cybercriminals often pursue it illicitly. There are two types of digital delinquencies that fall into this category:

  • Piracy
  • Forgery

Piracy has been around before the World Wide Web was a thing. Defined as the illegal copying of copyrighted materials, people have been doing for almost as long as audiovisual media was invested. But while back in the day it consisted of bootleg cassette tapes, VHS tapes, or CDs, nowadays the Internet has helped it spread like wildfire.

Forgery is another data replication cyber crime that felons have updated for the digital age. Counterfeiting is no longer a pen-on-paper process due to the ability of modern devices to render nearly perfect facsimiles of material objects.

Cyberattacks

Last, but certainly not least, there is the topic of cyberattacks, whose end goal is to steal data or otherwise damage an organization. These should be your main concern as a business owner, which is why I will focus on them from here on out. Encyclopedia Britannica identifies five sub-types, namely:

  • Sabotage
  • Hacking
  • DDoS attacks
  • Malspam
  • Computer viruses

Sabotage is defined as the hijacking of a corporation’s or governmental entity’s website to tarnish the organization’s reputation. On the opposite end of the digital spectrum, hacking consists of attacks that are directed towards specific devices. Therefore, the following three subtypes of cyber crimes can fall into either one of these larger categories, depending on what they target.

DDoS attacks, which is short for distributed denial of service, are a type of sabotage meant to prevent users from accessing a certain online location. This is achieved by targeting said location’s network and flooding it with queries. Malspam, or malicious spam emails, also consists of an outpour of requests, but they arrive via email and they are much cleverer.

Malspam makes use of social engineering tactics to convince the receiver of an electronic communication to click on infected links, disclose confidential data, or give access to private resources. The former usually contain some type of computer virus, a self-replicating program that can take over an entire system in seconds once it gets inside.

However, it is also important to note that the Encyclopedia Britannica was last updated in 2019, and it is incomplete from a cybersecurity standpoint even for that year. There are further examples of malicious code you should keep in mind in the modern digital age, namely:

  • Computer worms
  • Trojan horses
  • Internet bots
  • Spyware
  • Ransomware

For more information on what these are and why they are different from the traditional computer virus, you can read my article on the 7 examples of malicious code targeting enterprises since the beginning of the Internet.

Statistics on Cyberattacks  

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report, cyberattacks are the 5th largest danger across both public and private industries. In addition to this, the report ascertains that the rate at which they are detected and prosecuted is as low as 0.05% in the United States.

What is more, the overall inefficiency in the prevention of cyber crimes has been heightened by the Coronavirus pandemic that started in 2020. According to the Ponemon Institute’s 2020 global risk report titled Cybersecurity in the Remote Work Era, the effectiveness of IT security in worldwide organizations dropped by 27% during this period. Before the COVID-19 crisis, respondents assessed it at a good 71%, but now it lies in the lower half with 44%.

Other key findings from the record included:

  • 62% of organizations were concerned about the security of their customer records.
  • 48% saw the company’s financial information as the most vulnerable, while 31% were more worried about that of their clients.
  • 62% of respondents saw an increase in phishing attempts since the pandemic began.
  • 55% described an upsurge in credential theft, while 49% saw one in DDoS attacks, malware, and account takeover.
  • 56% of organizations saw an increase in incident response time, while 27% reported no changes.

Therefore, not only are cyberattacks an increasingly prevalent threat for organizations, but the COVID-19 crisis has changed how we respond to them for the worse as well. If your company is also struggling with this, I’ve got you. In the following section, I will go over a 7-step plan for the prevention of cyber crimes to help you get started on your way towards digital safety.

5 Tips for the Prevention of Cyber Crimes

#1 Implement an Email Security Solution

As highlighted by the cyber attack statistics I presented above, phishing acted as a conduit for cybercriminal activity most often in the last year. For this reason, what you first need to do is implement an email security solution. Traditional email services such as Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo! Mail already come with a few layers of defense that will detect malicious activity.

However, if you want to protect your enterprise against the most advanced malspam campaigns out there, you need to take your email security up a notch. This is where Heimdal™ Email Security and Heimdal™ Email Fraud Prevention come in.

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Available either separately or as a module, our email security solutions provide advanced attack vector analysis and deep attachment scanning, which means that no strain of malware will go undetected. In addition to this, opting for the package deal will give you the option to log every email that goes in and out of your company inbox, which makes quarantining suspicious activity all the more efficient.

#2 Create a Strong Password Policy  

Credential theft is another threat you should consider in the prevention of cyber crimes. Besides infecting the devices in your corporate network with malware, hackers are also looking to get their hands on as many login credentials as possible. This is a lucrative business opportunity for them, as they can further use them to steal your data or even sell them on the Dark Web. The shadiest corners of the Internet are swarming with password databases that anyone can purchase.

This is why your company needs a strong password policy. Credentials that contain both uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as alphanumeric characters are harder to crack. Create strict guidelines for this, and include cybersecurity tips on how often they should be changed as well. In this way, you and your employees will avoid making common password mistakes, such as:

  • reusing old passwords,
  • sharing passwords between accounts,
  • changing passwords according to a predefined schedule,
  • writing passwords down in plain text,
  • or skipping multi-factor authentication.

#3 Integrate Multi-Factor Authentication

While we’re on the topic of multi-factor authentication, let’s take a second to discuss its importance in the prevention of cyber crimes. The term refers to a verification system that sees users provide at least two if not more pieces of evidence that they are the owners of an account or have lawful access to it. It is a simple, yet effective way to prevent hacking and credential theft, among other incidents.

The first step in a multi-factor authentication system is a standard one – you put in your username or email address, then your password. Additional layers of security then follow. Depending on the platform and method, you might be required to:

  • Provide a biometric authentication vector such as facial recognition or fingerprint scanning.
  • Use a verified mobile device like a smartphone or tablet to confirm the login attempt.
  • Insert an additional PIN code that you get via email or text, etc.

#4 Provide Staff with Cybersecurity Education

Other than protective tools and policies, your employees can be a valuable asset for your company in the prevention of cyber crimes. Nonetheless, for them to be able to help, you must provide them with the appropriate cybersecurity education on issues that might pose concern for your enterprise and industry. Here are but a few possible topics:

  • how to recognize social engineering tactics,
  • how to spot a malicious attachment or link,
  • how to identify a cyberattack,
  • how to create a strong password,
  • and how to browse securely.

These are just a starting point. The field of cybersecurity is a lot more vast than these five pointers, which is why I recommend hiring an expert to hold these training sessions if you are not qualified to do it. Investing in your staff will pay off tenfold in the long run when they won’t fall victim to clever cyberattacks.

#5 Take the Complete EPDR Approach

Having all your bases covered for the prevention of cyber crimes requires a complete endpoint prevention, detection, and response solution. The particularity of this approach is that it takes protection one step beyond traditional EDR software, adding advanced threat hunting capabilities to your company network. This helps you prevent even the most cunning hackers from taking over your sensitive data and accounts.

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Our Heimdal™ EPDR offering consists of five modules:

By their powers combined, these state-of-the-art technologies not only detect and respond to cyberattacks but actively prevent them as well. Heimdal™ EPDR closes vulnerabilities in your system and keeps detailed lists of both known and unknown threats that keep your digital assets safe from cyber-harm.

Final Thoughts on the Prevention of Cyber Crimes

The prevention of cyber crimes is a multi-faceted affair. First and foremost, it is important to consider the nature of the lawbreaking. For the purpose of this article, I focused on offenses that target enterprises in particular.

In this specific case, the prevention of cyber crimes comes with several layers of defense that consist of both technologies and individuals. Having the appropriate cybersecurity tools under your belt should always be accompanied by relevant policies and cybersecurity training for your employees. Heimdal™ Security can help you with the former, so don’t hesitate to reach out at sales.inquiries@heimdalsecurity.com for more info.

 

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