It seems every step forward made in computer security technology is accompanied by two strides forward made by hackers and crackers whose sheer ingenuity must be recognized but not condoned.
It seems every step forward made in computer security technology is accompanied by two strides forward made by hackers and crackers whose sheer ingenuity must be recognized but not condoned. The disruptions caused by cybercriminals can be significant and substantial as they launch devious campaigns ranging from financial scams, hacking into sensitive and valuable data, disseminating damaging viruses and much more.
What is the cost of this online criminal activity? Well, the German foreign minister Joschka Fischer estimated the worldwide figure at over $40 billion each year. Needless to say, stopping cyber crime is top on the list of priorities in many countries around the globe.
Recently, the Metropolitan police quadrupled the size of its cybercrime unit. Now comprised of 85 officers, the unit has its hands full with the investigation into the “hacktivist” groups Lulzsec and Anonymous. Teenage members of the groups have been arrested and charged with offences under the Computer Misuse Act, the Serious Crime Act and the Criminal Law Act. They face up to 10 years in prison.
Google have been accusing China of hacking their services since January 2010, while only this month McAfee has revealed that hackers had conducted the largest series of cyber attacks in history, successfully infiltrating the networks of 72 organizations which included the United Nations. Once again, the evidence points to China.
When the Computer Security Institute conducted a recent survey a mind boggling 90% of US companies stated that in the previous year they had detected serious computer security breaches and 85% had detected damaging computer viruses.
Another regular cyber-criminal practice is the setting up of extremely valid looking company websites online, which offer enticing products at seemingly great prices. The ease by which these professional looking websites can be made is worrying. Indeed, many hackers, crackers and cybe-rcriminals have a vast range of professional knowledge and experience.
Often the average everyday web surfer doesn’t stand a chance. They enter their credit card details, place their order and the bogus company withdraws their money before closing the site down and disappearing without a trace. The conned would-be customers are left distraught and with a smaller bank account than before their consumer catastrophe.
On a smaller scale, we have all had our time online disrupted by infuriatingly annoying spambots and fake email campaigns. Who hasn’t been informed that should they provide their bank details to a poor bereaved widow they will be able to share a multi-million pound bank fund left by the deceased husband in an overseas bank account? Don’t do it, just hit delete and brief a sad sigh over how stupid some people think you must be.
Unfortunately, eagle-eyed cyber-criminals regularly scan people’s online social media profiles for clues to passwords and detailed personal information they can use to steal the person’s identity. Identity theft is an exceptionally serious 21st century crime that is rapid growing in frequency. Even fake log-in pages for sites like Facebook and Twitter or online bank accounts have been emailed to steal usernames and passwords.
Email spambots have been designed with incredible cunning to harvest email addresses. An immense automated spam campaign is then launched, cramming inboxes full with blood pressure rising junk. Security filters do their best to keep them at bay, but cybercriminals and even legitimate companies keep finding novel and irritating ways to get their lousy messages through.
Thankfully, on 4 August 2011 one of the world’s biggest spammers, self-appointed “spam king” Sanford Wallace surrendered himself to the FBI, after breaking into approximately 500,000 Facebook accounts to send around 27 million spam emails. Throw away the key!
Needless to say, everyone needs to stay on their toes to not become a victim of the cybercriminals causing widespread disruption online.
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