Hollywood loves to take real-life events and activities and then turn them into movies and TV shows that you can find hard to believe. Sometimes the most bizarre tales are true, but perhaps the movies can exaggerate them somewhat.
Cybercrime is a very genuine threat to personal and business networks. It costs hundreds of millions of dollars a year not to mention the stress and anxiety it may cause to a normal home computer user, let alone a business. Unfortunately, it can happen to you through the simple activity of opening spam email and downloading a virus unwittingly.
What damage does cybercrime do?
Sadly, this type of criminal activity causes much damage. By hijacking computers and infecting them with viruses, hackers can demand ransoms or destroy data and other information. Vandalism is something that you can see physically but the corruption of someone’s files is the same. It may not be quite as visible but these hackers can destroy months of valuable work simply by infecting the computer or server they are targeting.
How do the movies compare to this?
The problem with cybercrime is many people don’t think it could happen to them. The majority of people play games on their smartphones or consoles, surf the net on their laptops, and don’t once think about how secure they are.
When you watch a Hollywood movie such as Swordfish where a hacker is hired to steal government funds seems as far away as possible from your usual activities of checking emails and using online banking. Unfortunately, this isn’t so.
Real-life cybercrime activities
Back in Superman 3, Richard Pryor committed the first movie cybercrime or what may have been the first. For unknown reasons, Pryor’s character was a gifted programmer who came across the idea of skimming all the half-cents off of his employer’s payroll and giving it to himself. By writing a small program he ended up with over $80,000 extra in his weekly pay-check.
In real life, a hacker would be more likely to target many individuals to gather their personal data to make money from their bank accounts. In one example of something closer to a movie, one of the Pirate Bay founders was caught in Laos in 2014. He had been living in the country for some time and traveled frequently to his holiday home in Thailand. While he may have been living in the sunshine, just like the movies he ended up behind bars.
One of the most common cybercrimes is ID theft and fraud. For a criminal to perform this act they need your sensitive and personal information. Sadly, many people don’t keep this as private as you might imagine. Using a Virtual Private network can keep your data safer but much of your data is scattered all over the net. Between all your online accounts you share your name, location, Mother’s maiden name, and other information. This makes it easy to build up a profile of you. This data can be compiled together and what isn’t known can either be discovered or guessed at to give a complete profile. Before you know it your credit rating has tanked because someone has been taking out loans and credit cards in your name.
Who are the good guys and bad guys?
In Hollywood, you would know straight away, but in this scenario, the bad guys are hiding away, often thousands of miles away. It could be that one hacker is trying to gain access to other people’s data or it could be an organized criminal gang in Russia. They might be right next door too.
The good guys are the government and security experts writing code to beat viruses and track down the crooks. Someone with a cybersecurity degree will be on the frontline of protecting the public, commerce, and official departments from attack. It is these people that you rely on to make sure that the internet remains as safe as possible.
What types of cybercrimes are there?
Ransomware and online blackmail are types of cybercrimes that are fairly common. Selecting the best antivirus software can help stop this type of activity. Cryptolocker was a particularly prevalent form of ransomware that worked its way into a vast amount of computers in no time. Once you have this virus on your device you will be asked to pay a fine within a time frame or risk losing all your data.
How can you protect yourself?
If you are running a website then using a hosting company with good security is a must. Businesses need their IT professionals to keep all their data away from snoops. In the home, it is often as simple as being careful at what you download and look at. Use antivirus and VPNs to keep viruses away and data fully encrypted when being transferred. A VPN will also mask your address and stop anyone from knowing where you are physically located.
Although it is unlikely John Travolta will hire Hugh Jackman to hack your network it is vital to take cybercrime seriously if you use the internet. You will no doubt have multiple passwords and accounts and these are all fair game to a hacker.