What Are the 5 Major Categories of Cybercrimes and How Are They Combatted?

While the monumental advancements in technology and the inception of the internet have been a blessing in many aspects, they are not without their negative impacts. The most prevalent of these are cybercrimes which have been a cause of distress for many  individuals as well as established businesses and organizations.

According to many reports, the threats posed by cybercrimes – which come in varying forms and types are escalating in complexity and frequency as our world continues to transcend into the digital age. However, there are some strategies that you can employ to prevent cyberattacks and stop cyber criminals from getting their hands on your valuable information and assets.

People interested in fighting cybercrime can consider polishing their skills, which can be developed with the help of a Master’s degree in law enforcement, such as the one offered by Wilfrid Laurier University.

What Is Cybercrime?

Cybercrime is a type of criminal offense or activity committed to target and harm the reputation of the victim or cause them mental or physical harm. These illegal acts involve the use of computers, networks (such as mobile networks or the internet), or any other communication devices as tools or instruments to gain access to someone’s personal data or confidential business information, steal their identity, commit fraud, violate privacy laws, etc.

Cybercrimes are currently at an all-time high, leading companies and individuals to lose billions of dollars annually in the past five years. The rise in cyberattacks stems from the evolution of technology and the rising accessibility of smart devices, which provide numerous access points for hackers to exploit. Even though law enforcement has tried to get this growing issue under control, online criminal activity continues to grow because of the anonymity that the internet provides.

An individual who uses his expertise in technology to carry out malicious acts and criminal activities – cybercrimes – is known as a cybercriminal or hacker. It can even be carried out by groups with ulterior motives or for political gains. Cybercriminals are typically known to provide their illegal services or products via what is called the “Dark Web”.

Five of the most common types of cybercrimes

Cybercrimes can be carried out in different forms, depending on what the hacker plans to gain from them. Five cybercrimes that come to mind when broaching this topic are given below:

Phishing scams

Phishing is one of the main types of cyberattacks where hackers manipulate and trick unsuspecting users by sending malicious email attachments or links that download malware onto their devices and allow the cybercriminal to gain remote access to their sensitive information. This may include personal data, credit card details and addresses, financial accounts, and access to devices.

According to PhishMe, 91% of successful cyberattacks begin when people click on a link or willingly provide their personal information out of fear, curiosity, or a surge of urgency. Other forms of phishing include SMS phishing or smishing and vishing or video phishing.

Typically, these cybercrimes are committed by mimicking popular and trusted businesses and brands. Nowadays, cybercriminals have access to technology that prevents most of these emails from being flagged as spam. In fact, according to reports, 75% of organizations or businesses experienced some kind of phishing in 2020, and this number has only increased since then.

How to combat phishing scams?

        New phishing techniques and scams are being introduced every day. So, it is vital to stay on top of things and familiarize yourself with this new development. This will lower the chances of you being ensnared by one.

        Pay close attention to social media profile names and domains since established brands and businesses usually have their domain typosquatting and their social media profiles verified. This will allow you to differentiate between reputable and rogue sites.

        From a business perspective, make sure to instruct and educate your staff since, ultimately, it is up to these individuals to safeguard the organization from this type of cybercrime. Proper training will allow them to recognize telltale signs and targeted phishing campaigns.

        Refrain from providing any sort of information on websites that are not safe; secure websites always display a padlock at the beginning of their URL.

        Most browsers will allow you to install add-ons that spot the initial signs of a malicious website and alert you about known phishing sites. They are generally free, so there is absolutely no reason not to have them installed on your digital devices.

Internet fraud

Internet fraud is a term used to describe any type of scam that utilizes emails, websites, message boards, or chat rooms to propose fraudulent solicitations to potential victims in order to conduct deceitful transactions. Usually, this category of cybercrime asks users to send in money by promising to return a much more generous sum of money in a short period of time.

There are plenty of take-ups of this cybercrime, and more are being developed daily. Usually, the victim receives communication from someone needing help to move a large sum of money from a foreign country. In this scenario, the victim might be asked to cover the cost of transferring funds or assets and will be promised a massive cut of the benefits in return when the process is over. However, this offer is way too good to be true and ends in the victim losing their hard-earned cash.

Another common fraud in this respect is related to bogus job listings, where the user is asked to pay some cash to cover the cost of registration or paperwork.

How to combat internet fraud?

        If an offer seems too good to be true, chances are that it is a fraud. So, your best defense in this regard would be to use your common sense and move on.

        Avoid unsolicited communications with strangers offering impossibly attractive deals, and make sure not to pay in advance for these.

        Ask as many questions as you can to understand the offer fully. If you suspect that something is not adding up, refrain from moving forward with the deal.

        Never offer your personal information to a stranger or third party posing as a bank or financial institution representative.

Intellectual property infringement

Intellectual property (IP) infringement is a term used to describe the violation of an intellectual property right. There are many different types of intellectual property rights, including patents, trademarks, content piracy, copyrights, trade secrets, sales of counterfeit or replica goods, and industrial designs. For instance, using a third party’s image, logo, design, trademark, etc., without the proper permission from the intellectual rights owner can constitute intellectual property infringement.

Here are some types of intellectual property infringement:

        Trademark Infringement: Trademark infringement is referred to as the unsanctioned use of a trademark (a symbol, term, or phrase that distinguishes one organization’s product from another) in a way that is likely to confuse consumers regarding the source of the product.

        Counterfeiting: This is a type of trademark infringement and constitutes products designed to fool consumers into believing that they are getting something authentic.

        Piracy: This is the reproduction, replication, and spreading of copyrighted materials without authorization or permission from the copyright owner.

How to combat intellectual property infringement?

        The strongest defense against intellectual property infringement comes from registering your work. In this way, you place your claim into the public view, discouraging others from using your work without consent.

        Although laws and registrations offer legal remedies when your work is used without your authorization, they cannot prevent your work from being replicated or stolen in the first place. Therefore, it is your responsibility to keep an eye on your industry and market.

        If you do find an instance of IP infringement, make sure to take action. Depending on the circumstances, you have various options, including filing a lawsuit, sending a cease and desist, or requesting a court injunction.

        An exact-match domain name is one of the best IP protection methods for trademarks.

        A classic way of protecting Intellectual property often involves patenting or copyrighting your techniques and works and defending them in court with all your might.

        Construct non-disclosure, confidentiality, or licensing contracts for partners and employees.

        If your product or work is not patentable, or you prefer to shield it using the trade secrets law, you should limit the number of people you inform about it.

Identity theft

Identity theft, also referred to as identity fraud, occurs when a cybercriminal or hacker gets their hands on critical details regarding personally identifiable information (PII), such as ID cards, social security numbers, or driver’s license numbers. Using this stolen information, a cybercriminal takes over the victim’s identity and commits various fraudulent activities in their name.

These illegal acts may include stealing funds, accessing confidential information, participating in tax or health insurance fraud, providing the thief with false credentials, and purchasing or claiming government benefits available to the victim.

Financial identity theft is the most widespread type of identity theft. There are also other types such as tax-related identity theft, medical identity theft, child identity theft, synthetic identity theft, and more.

Hackers conduct identity theft by utilizing sophisticated cyberattack tactics, including phishing, malware, and social engineering. It can also result from other tactics, with criminals digging through dumpsters, stealing mail, and listening in on phone conversations in public areas.

How to combat identity theft?

        Never give out your confidential personal or corporate details over the phone – especially contact you didn’t initiate – or on a website unless you are 100% sure of the recipient’s credibility.

        Do not write down your important passwords and PIN codes anywhere.

        Dispose of and properly shred documents containing important information. Also, do not keep these documents in a location which is accessible.

        Make sure to enable the two-factor authentication facility on all accounts that offer it.

        Monitor your financial accounts and bank statements regularly and keep tabs on your credit reports to sniff out any changes you did not make.

        Set up alerts on your banking accounts and credit cards. This way, you will be notified every time there has been a transaction from your checking account.

        Share as little information as you possibly can online.

Online harassment

Online harassment, also known as cyberbullying, cyber-harassment, or cyber-victimization, is a kind of cybercrime that involves the use of the internet to threaten, bully, humiliate, or aggressively hassle someone. This may include expressions of discriminatory beliefs, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, or ableist prejudices. Victims of online harassment – who are usually students, women, and teens  are subjected to cyberstalking, sexual harassment, doxing, image-based sexual abuse, etc.

Typically, online harassment occurs on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.) in the form of posts, comments, direct messages, SMS, email, and instant messaging. This allows the offenders to intimidate their victims and instill fear, making them question their safety and well-being.

These cybercrimes are overly damaging to the victim’s mental health and may lead to the victims developing serious mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, and cause them to have suicidal thoughts and ideations.

How to combat online harassment?

        Report cases of harassment or stalking to the social media platform or the competent authorities.

        To discourage bullying, ensure your social media accounts have strict privacy settings.

        Depending on the situation, you can also block the cyberstalker or cyberbully from contacting you by blocking their phone number, email, or social media account.

        Report the situation and threat in detail to the local security officers or authorities.

        Always think before you post anything online. Since the internet is forever, whatever you post will circulate around the online world for a long time. So, make sure to pay extra attention to it.

Keep all personal information private and away from the internet. This includes your address, phone number, or email address.