Protection from Cyber Crime

by tylercook on November 27, 2012

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These days, you’re just as likely to be “mugged” by a faceless hacker than by an intimidating street thug. Comprising a wide range of criminal activities conducted via electronic communication networks, cyber crime is now a serious problem that saps billions of dollars from the national economy each year. Examples of cyber crime include personal identity theft and hacking attacks against major corporations or national governments.

The problem is far more pervasive than the occasional news stories about high-profile hacking attacks would lead you to believe. In fact, you may be a victim of cyber crime without even knowing it: According to an influential recent report, nearly one in three U.S. computers were infected with viruses, worms, trojans and other malware.

Private Internet users are most likely to be exposed to cyber crime through the various forms of identity theft. Cyber criminals are especially adept at stealing users’ passwords. Over the years, they’ve developed several innovative methods for gleaning this information without being detected. This is not something to be taken lightly: Once a hacker has access to the passwords that you use to access secure information and accounts, he or she can wreak havoc on your finances as well as your personal reputation.

There are several means by which hackers can obtain passwords for personal gain. “Phishing” is by far the most popular of these. Phishers typically send out e-mails that purport to be from reputable agencies or institutions and ask recipients to respond with specific bits of private information. If you respond to a phishing e-mail with a password or security question, you’ve likely just given a hacker the tools he needs to steal your identity.

“Network intrusion” is another popular means of obtaining passwords or other information. It’s helpful to think of network intrusion as digital wiretapping: It requires hackers to monitor the outflow of non-encrypted information from private computers through non-secure public networks. Any site that places an “https” designation at the beginning of its web address uses advanced security protocols to reduce the likelihood of network intrusions.

Some hackers take a more nihilistic approach to cyber crime. Many create malware capable of infecting and crashing thousands of computers at once simply to cause chaos and confusion. Those who target major corporations or government agencies may do so to make political or ideological statements. Every year, the U.S. government repels hundreds of unsuccessful cyber attacks.

To combat public and private cyber crime, the FBI has set up a dedicated cyber crime task force that works with the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section to stymie and apprehend cyber criminals.

The FBI also maintains a joint venture with the National White Collar Crime Center. Known as the Internet Crime Complaint Center, this service actively solicits reports of cyber crime from private citizens and business owners via an interactive reporting mechanism. It also provides basic tips on cyber crime prevention and information about past schemes that criminal organizations appear likely to attempt to implement in the future. Its tips include avoiding suspicious pop-up ads, storing important documents on portable hard drives or computers that lack direct Internet connections, and staying away from malware-rich pornography or gambling sites.

Cyber crime has few natural barriers to entry. Although their deeds may be punishable by steep fines and harsh prison sentences, seasoned hackers are often able to elude the authorities for years at a time. It’s unrealistic to expect the emerging partnership between public agencies and private citizens to be able to prevent every single instance of cyber crime. Nevertheless, the efforts of a vigilant and informed citizenry may mitigate the most devastating effects of this insidious new form of criminal activity.


This piece was composed by Reginald Wadsworth, a freelance writer who often contributes material on law, politics, finance and other prominent subjects; legal needs come in various forms, for those who need assistance in the area of Personal Injury law consider the services of a firm with extensive experience in this subfield.




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