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Guarding against cybercrime

With the explosion of the Internet has come a silent global epidemic, the underworld of cybercrime, which puts every internet user at risk. This crime covers from annoying spam emails to far more sinister fraud and identity theft matters or cyber terrorism. Because of its indiscriminate nature, it affects young and old computer users, regardless of race, gender, nationality or social standing. According to a recent Norton Cybercrime Report, 65% of adults worldwide have been a victim of some form of cybercrime and only 3% of respondents indicated that they did not expect to be such a victim at some point.
Image courtesy of  and Pixomar
Image courtesy of and Pixomar
Some of the most common forms of cybercrime include computer viruses and malware, online scams, phishing, social networking profile hacking, online credit card fraud and sexual predation. While several forms of cybercrime are simply an irritation for many people, for those who fall victim to more serious crimes online it can be a traumatic event. Sexual predation is of great concern for parents with children online and many people the world over have lost time and money through online scams and credit card fraud.

Evading justice

The dangers of cybercrime are real, yet just over half of respondents would not change way they behave online even if they became a victim of cybercrime, even though, according to the report, nine out of 10 people do not feel very safe online. These crimes continue to grow as more and more people join the online community and the perpetrators continue to evade justice.

The lack of justice comes because of numerous factors - the international nature of the internet, the criminals are a faceless menace and international cybercrime is difficult to uncover and to successfully prosecute.

There is also a pervasive culture among people to feel that they are to blame for falling victim to cybercrime, which in turn has a knock on effect to the number of online crimes that are reported. Failing to report cybercrimes not only hinders the justice process, it also means that more people will pay for the crime, as financial institutions will often pass on the cost of any losses incurred to the clients of the bank.

Costs of cybercrime

Cybercrime causes loss in more way than one. Besides hitting the wallets of those affected, it also causes major hassles, such as the amount of time it takes and the cost associated with resolving a cybercrime incident and invokes emotional stress in victims, who may feel powerless, angry, embarrassed, violated, upset and frustrated.

As much as 90% of the time, cybercrime rings are run by organised crime syndicates, a fact which most of the public seems unaware, with only 21% of respondents in the report indicating they felt organised crime was to blame. But who is really to blame for the sheer amount of cybercrime happening today? The practices and behaviours of many people online are morally grey and many users have been tempted into unethical behaviours at some point.

Are you a cyber criminal?

Downloading music, movies and other digital content online is one area where people commonly fall into unethical practices, seeing nothing wrong with downloading this content without paying for it. This opens people up to crime, as cyber criminals will inevitably be aware of the channels people use to illegally download digital content and will use this content as a means of distributing malicious tools and other threats.

The rise of social networking has also aided the spread of cybercrime. Many people feel it is acceptable to fictionalise online profiles of themselves, which they feel may protect them by giving a shield of anonymity. However people also fail to realise that the same holds true for cyber criminals, who may mask their identity behind false information. This makes it difficult for anyone to know who they are really talking to, which can open people up to dangers online.

Cybercrime protection

When it comes to protecting ourselves from online crime, there are several common sense rules that should apply:
  • never give out passwords
  • don't give out personal information unnecessarily
  • don't open attachments or links from strangers
  • watch out for offers that seem too good to be true
  • always keep financial details safe and secure
The majority of internet users are aware of these ground rules and yet still fall victim to cybercrime. Why? Because we have been socially engineered to 'click here' and we make it too easy for online criminals.

Other precautions users can take to make the lives of cyber criminals more difficult include:
  • using a separate email address for online purchases
  • never use a debit card for online purchases
  • back up files regularly
  • change passwords often and use complex passwords
  • use a browser search advisor to prevent entry onto fake website
Combining these common sense practices with the right computer software to protect a machine from malicious software can make a massive difference when it comes to fighting cybercrime. Criminals are always looking for ways to get around security software, so make sure you have the best tools available and keep them up to date, as the more comprehensive your security suite is, the better protected you are.

About Fred Mitchell

Fred Mitchell is the Symantec Business Unit Manager at Drive Control Corporation.

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