Cybercrime is the fastest-growing type of crime around the world. Whether those responsible intend to profit by stealing other people’s money or data, to cause harm to a person or organization, or just to demonstrate their skill as hackers, cyber threats cause real harm to those who are targeted.
According to the Norton Cyber Security Insights Report, almost 500 million consumers have been the victims of cybercrime across the 10 countries they surveyed, with nearly 350 million in the last year alone. By 2021, cybercrime will cost the world $6 trillion annually, making cybercrime more profitable than the global trade of all major illegal drugs combined (Cybersecurity Ventures, 2019).
Types of cybercrimes
Cybercrimes happen when cyber attackers or con artists exploit weaknesses in online security systems — or take advantage of victims’ trust or lack of knowledge — to disrupt online systems, steal data, extort money, or make threats.
Sometimes these criminals use technical know-how to harvest personal information from social media profiles, infect computers with malware or bypass security systems. Other times they use trickery to convince victims to share personal information or passwords.
Cybercrime can take many forms, including:
- Malware: Spreading malicious software, including spyware, viruses, ransomware or worms, to block access to key components of the system, steal data or provide unauthorized access to files, or render a system inoperable;
- Phishing: Tricking people to send money or share personal information or passwords by sending fake emails that appear to be from legitimate sources;
- Identity theft: Using other people’s personal information to create new accounts, make purchases or gain unauthorized access to online services;
- Hacking: Illicitly stealing, changing or destroying personal information stored online or on a computer’s hard drive, or disrupting the normal functioning of computer networks and systems;
- Hate crimes or terrorism: Inciting violence or fear toward ethnic, religious or special interest groups.
The impact of cyber threats
Any interconnected device can be a potential entry point for cyberattacks. Even if a computer is on a private network that is not linked to the Internet, it is not immune to attack. With more services, more information and more devices connected to each other, the risk of cyber threats grows.
Important medical, legal and financial records are increasingly stored online. Business communication relies on email, instant messenger services, and Internet-connected smartphones. Retail businesses now not only sell online but also use Internet-connected computers for inventory and warehouse management. Transportation and logistics companies use online services for fleet management and traffic control. Even some home refrigerators are now connected to the Internet.
With so much of our personal and business data now stored on our computers or in the Cloud, it is up to each one of us to ensure our data and devices are protected.
How to protect your organization from cyber threats
A few simple precautions can make your business less vulnerable to cyber threats, like keeping software up to date, creating strong and unique passwords, developing Internet security policies for your business and ensuring employees are educated about cyber threats and that you have a strong security framework to protect your business.
It may seem like a hassle to install antivirus software and firewalls, change passwords frequently, encrypt data or develop formal security policies. Recovering from a cyberattack on your computer system or repairing the damage done by identity theft, however, is ultimately much more costly and time-consuming.