Cyber crime is on the increase and has been for some time. Of course, the effectiveness of the police to correctly label a crime as cyber has improved but it is doubtful this alone can account for what we’re seeing. There is a real and substantial increase in crime being committed online or facilitated in some way by our ever more intrinsically digital lives.
What do most people think of when they hear the term ‘cyber crime’? Well that depends on who most people are, how they use the internet and where they believe the threat of crime is coming from.
Take the retired teacher who occasionally uses the Internet to do banking, email distant friends and seek out the cheapest car insurance. Ask that person what they think cyber crime is and they will inevitable talk to you about the dodgy phishing emails they receive and how they are worried about fraud. They will likely tell you of the time they nearly clicked on an email link thinking it was the ‘tax man’. Or the time someone called from their internet service provider to advise them their router was faulty in order to convince them to install TeamViewer to allow remote access.
Then think of that retired teacher’s daughter who has two children, one in high school and one in primary school. They both have a tablet and smart phone each and do their homework on the family laptop. The kids come home and tell her all about how someone came into school from the police and gave them loads of advice about staying safe online. They reel off their new knowledge and impress their parents but what does this all mean to Mum & Dad? It means the next friend request to come from an older looking male means smart phones are being confiscated and access to the internet limited. These children are children born into an online world and they will go online whether their parents say they can or not. Now they just won’t say anything next time they are being bullied or asked to perform a ‘special dance’ in return for the prize of a new smart phone.
What about the boy living across the road who you rarely see? Sometimes he’s up all night, judging by the flickering light of his computer screen that can be seen from outside. He’s your local cyber criminal. He began in school by being the smart ass who shoulder surfed a few passwords and sent hilarious emails to teachers from unwitting fellow student’s accounts. He got bored of that, watched a few YouTube videos and now he sits there scanning for vulnerabilities on local school websites. He commits DDoS attacks against local businesses using free stressor tools just for the hell of it. After doing that a few times he gains enough kudos to join an ‘elite’ hacking squad of like minded individuals. He is now the big man revered by his peers and hated by his victims for the loss of business, damage to reputation and outright nuisance he causes. All the while he is ignorant to the fact that despite never being in trouble ever in his life he is committing offences each night that can bring a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and what a shock that is for him when the police come knocking.
Despite all he has learned the youthful cyber criminal fails to put his skills and knowledge to good use. He could have told his Dad to backup his business data and update antivirus but he didn’t. His Dad runs a well respected car sales company in town. A couple of days ago a member of staff double clicked an attachment in an innocent looking email and now access to payroll, quotes, orders and customer contact information is denied. Ransomware has taken over the network of three computers and the local IT company can do no better than wipe all drives and start again. No backup, no data and a bill for IT that they can ill afford hits the company hard. Fortunately, the organised crime group behind this spree of offending failed to profit on this occasion.
Cyber crime is a problem for not just one type of person or business but a problem for all. For those of us who understand the threats and know how to mitigate in some small way against them we need to share this knowledge. The criminals have evolved but you have to consider how the public are more exposed than ever due to the increasingly seamless integration of the internet into all our lives.