What is cybercrime? It is any criminal activity where the main object (as a target and/or as a tool) is a computer or network.
Some cybercrimes are aimed at directly attacking computers or other devices in order to break or disable them. Other cybercrimes involve computers to spread malware, steal information, and other materials.
It is not so simple to divide cybercrime into separate categories since they often intersect with each other. However, in general, the following types can be distinguished:
It is not a surprise that many cybercrooks employ the Internet to get financial benefits by carrying out the following attacks:
Cybercriminals like to pick low-hanging fruits when infecting computers of unsuspecting users. For most such schemes, email is a favorite means of attacks. The essence of a phishing scam is to force the recipient to click on the web link, open the file attachment or complete the online form. Messages are often sent on behalf of a big legitimate organization like tax services, banks, online shops. In many cases, crooks want to acquire your passwords or infect the device with malware.
One more popular financially-motivated cybercrime is extortion. After infecting a user or company with malware, all files get blocked. Then criminals send a proposal to restore files in exchange for a monetary reward. Most often, hackers require payments made with Bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies.
Sophisticated financial fraud involves hacking into the networks of retail operators to obtain credit card data from their customers. Other attacks have to do with targeted spear phishing when hackers impersonate business executives and initiate rogue wire transfers. It is also sometimes called a business email compromise (BEC). Some types of financial fraud are extremely difficult to detect.
This one is one of the most common forms of online crime. Usage of copyright-protected content for personal gains is widely represented on torrent websites.
Crimes related to the intrusion into private affairs
The purpose of such misdeeds is to gain access to confidential data. There are many types of such offenses. Sometimes hackers are driven by deeper motivation such as money or political influence. The goal is to circumvent laws and find vulnerabilities in technologies that should protect confidential data.
The theft of personal information occurs with the aim of substitution of the digital identity of a victim. For instance, fraudsters obtain personal details of a victim (SSN, phone number, address, etc.) and apply for a huge bank loan.
Surveillance and secret monitoring of the life of people may involve hacking into CCTV cameras, intrusion into communication channels – SMS, mail, etc.
Spam is a very common type of cybercrime. In some countries, it is allowed but in the USA, for example, you can go to jail for it. Spammers may use unsolicited emails, SMS messages, and other communication channels. Any message sent without receiving the prior consent of the user is called spam.
Politically and socially driven online illegal acts
Some crime types are aimed at changing political attitudes or causing harm or reducing the influence of individuals or groups.
Harassment and hate
Offensive emails and instant messages against an individual or a group of people are often committed based on racial, gender, religious, sex or other characteristics. Online anonymity is good when a VPN allows you to avoid censorship or surveillance but at the same time, it makes it difficult to combat hate crimes.
Extremist organizations and warlike people are increasingly using cyberspace to harm IT infrastructure, discuss terror acts, spread propaganda, etc. The growing number of businesses, services, and connected devices make all of the potential targets of cyber terrorists.
The use of connected devices for humiliation or intimidation falls under the category of cyberbullying. The line between hate crimes and cyberbullying is sometimes blurred. Some types of cyberbullying, like publishing sensitive images of children, is illegal and is called child exploitation.
Other unlawful activities
The bad side of the Internet, called the Dark Web, is used to carry out various types of illegal activities.
Distribution of pornography via the Internet is interpreted as a crime in many countries. In some counties, only extremely violent or related to animal content is banned. The spread of child pornography is prohibited in all most all countries.
Weapon and drug distribution
Numerous marketplaces that exist on the Dark Web help criminals sell drugs and weapons while staying out of the sight of the police.
There are three common methods that hackers use. The first one is based on the usage of malware. There are many vulnerable operating systems and software. It is very important to use complex security measures, set long passwords, and run regular backups and updates.
The second way relies on DDoS attacks. An attacker sends a huge number of requests to a server causing it to overload and go offline. No malware is getting sent to the victim; the main goal here is to make the service unavailable for visitors.
The third method is a combination of malicious code and social engineering. The most famous form of this attack is the above-mentioned phishing. A victim is lured to click on a link and\or fill out the online form, which may lead to the infection or identity theft.
As you see, cybercrime involves a big range of unlawful actions, ranging from drug trafficking and hate crimes to theft of personal data and fraud. Again, it is sometimes hard to draw a border between them as there are intersections. For example, a phishing attack can be aimed at stealing personal data, and the new fake identity can be subsequently used to get money for terrorists.
It is crucial to understand that cybercrime is not always associated with sophisticated schemes. Most attacks can be avoided by developing basic security habits and being well-informed about modern threats.