Each year we get more troubling news about the state of crime on the Internet. What could have looked like a rebellious practice to break computer systems out of curiosity a few decades back now is fully organized online crime.
The variety of online crimes makes it hard to define the perpetrator. However, we can accurately define what online dangers threaten individual users and businesses alike and understand the motives behind that. This article overviews the most common and most dangerous online crime methods and the people behind them.
Hackers VS Cybercriminals
Many use these two terms interchangeably, but they are significantly different. A hacker is a person that uses advanced technical skills to improve or break computer systems. Meanwhile, a cybercriminal is a person that uses technical skills with criminal intent. They overlap only on a few occasions.
There are three types of hackers: White Hat (or ethical), Black Hat, and Grey Hat. White Hat hackers use their skills to break computer systems to improve them. They locate vulnerabilities and simulate cyber attacks to help businesses prepare for a real event.
Black Hat hackers break computer systems to cause damage. They can target a business to bring it down or demand ransomware, be driven by ideological reasons (hacktivists), harass and blackmail out of spite or revenge, distribute illegal sexual content and sell drugs online, etc. Black Hat hacker and cybercriminal can be used.
Grey Hat hackers are somewhere in the middle. They avoid causing damage and don’t participate in harmful criminal online activities. However, they are driven by selfish reasons, like greed. A Grey Hat hacker can break into a computer system without asking for permission and then demand payment for vulnerability assessment.
Because cybercrime is relatively new, it isn’t easy to define a cybercriminal’s psychology. However, we can identify the motives that reveal crucial information we can use to improve online safety.
- Financial gain. This is the most common and obvious motive. Cybercriminals will use Phishing to steal a person’s credit card details and empty the bank account, infect corporate networks to extract funds, and spread ransomware demanding large amounts of money. Individual Internet users should consider subscribing to an Antivirus with identity theft protection features. Meanwhile, businesses must hire dedicated cybersecurity professionals to secure their corporate networks.
- Revenge. A particularly troubling form of cybercrime is revenge porn, exposing the most intimate details and causing tremendous psychological harm to the victim. Simultaneously, organizational insiders can steal valuable business information or damage computer systems if the two separate on bad terms. Individual users need to store intimate pictures and videos safely. For example, use data encryption software to store it locally, and if you upload it to Cloud storage, secure it with a strong password. Furthermore, use a password manager to store all passwords in an encrypted vault and autofill them on requests, neutralizing credential stuffing and brute-forcing cyber attacks.
- State-sponsored cybercrime. This is extraordinarily dangerous for large businesses and corporations. Authoritarian countries like China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran sponsor local cybercrime groups to cause tremendous damage to their adversaries. For example, ransomware attacks that devastated Ireland’s healthcare sector and damaged US oil operations can be traced back to Russia, which turns a blind eye to cybercrime organizations that target the West, and, most likely, fund them.
- Hacktivism. Ideological reasons, such as far-right racism, far-left anti-capitalism, anti-authoritarianism, etc., drive these hackers. The ideological reasons can either be good or bad, but on most occasions, hacktivists participate in cybercrime. The most notorious hacktivist group is Anonymous.
Regarding casual Internet users, cybercriminals will target the least protected victim 99% of the time. Financial gains drive most, and breaking into a cyber-secure device is costly and risks detection. Furthermore, hackers will target more senior people who grew up without digital technologies and are more susceptible to cyber-attacks.
It’s imperative to use at least some cyber protection software for everybody. For example, a Virtual Private Network will secure user devices on public Wi-Fi and protect the home network from unauthorized access and online surveillance. An Antivirus will neutralize the virus if someone accidentally downloads it, and identity theft protection will monitor credit card and banking details.
Businesses must scrutinize cybercrime situations to evaluate whether they are at risk and require elaborate cybersecurity systems. For example, a decent Marriott hotel got hacked several times because they handle so much client data that cybercriminals can use for further exploits. If you’re unsure your business can protect such information, use a Cloud storage solution that provides robust security features like data encryption, multi-factor authentication, and data backups.
There is still very little data about the people behind cybercrime. Right now, it’s best to rely on statistics and evaluate your online risks. Using discussed software will repel most hackers because they frequently look for the easiest grab. It’s always best to take the initiative and apply for protection before anything bad happens, and we hope this article helps you take the first step!