Are you concerned about cybercrime? Understanding exactly what cybercrime is, the different types, and how to protect yourself from it will help put your mind at rest.

This article explores cybercrime in depth so that you know exactly what threats you need to protect yourself against to stay safe online. We discuss:

  • What cybercrime is.
  • Types of cybercrime.
  • What counts as cybercrime with examples.
  • How to protect yourself against cybercrime.

What is cybercrime?

Cybercrime is criminal activity that either targets or uses a computer, a computer network or a networked device.

Most, but not all, cybercrime is committed by cybercriminals or hackers who want to make money. Cybercrime is carried out by individuals or organizations.

Some cybercriminals are organized, use advanced techniques and are highly technically skilled. Others are novice hackers.

Rarely, cybercrime aims to damage computers for reasons other than profit. These could be political or personal.

Random programming source code with syntax

Types of cybercrime

Here are some specific examples of the different types of cybercrime:

  • Email and internet fraud.
  • Identity fraud (where personal information is stolen and used).
  • Theft of financial or card payment data.
  • Theft and sale of corporate data.
  • Cyberextortion (demanding money to prevent a threatened attack).
  • Ransomware attacks (a type of cyberextortion).
  • Cryptojacking (where hackers mine cryptocurrency using resources they do not own).
  • Cyberespionage (where hackers access government or company data).

Most cybercrime falls under two main categories:

  • Criminal activity that targets
  • Criminal activity that uses computers to commit other crimes.

Cybercrime that targets computers often involves viruses and other types of malware.

Cybercriminals may infect computers with viruses and malware to damage devices or stop them working. They may also use malware to delete or steal data.

Man frustrated over cybercrime experience

Cybercrime that stops users using a machine or network, or prevents a business providing a software service to its customers, is called a Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack.

Cybercrime that uses computers to commit other crimes may involve using computers or networks to spread malware, illegal information or illegal images.

Sometimes cybercriminals conduct both categories of cybercrime at once. They may target computers with viruses first. Then, use them to spread malware to other machines or throughout a network.

Cybercriminals may also carry out what is known as a Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDos) attack. This is similar to a DoS attack but cybercriminals use numerous compromised computers to carry it out.

The US Department of Justice recognizes a third category of cybercrime which is where a computer is used as an accessory to crime. An example of this is using a computer to store stolen data.

The US has signed the European Convention of Cybercrime. The convention casts a wide net and there are numerous malicious computer-related crimes which it considers cybercrime. For example:

  • Illegally intercepting or stealing data.
  • Interfering with systems in a way that compromises a network.
  • Infringing copyright.
  • Illegal gambling.
  • Selling illegal items online.
  • Soliciting, producing or possessing child pornography.

Examples of cybercrime

So, what exactly counts as cybercrime? And are there any well-known examples?

In this section, we look at famous examples of different types of cybercrime attack used by cybercriminals. Read on to understand what counts as cybercrime.

Malware attacks

A malware attack is where a computer system or network is infected with a computer virus or other type of malware.

A computer compromised by malware could be used by cybercriminals for several purposes. These include stealing confidential data, using the computer to carry out other criminal acts, or causing damage to data.

A famous example of a malware attack is the WannaCry ransomware attack, a global cybercrime committed in May 2017.

Ransomware is a type of malware used to extort money by holding the victim’s data or device to ransom. WannaCry is type of ransomware which targeted a vulnerability in computers running Microsoft Windows.

When the WannaCry ransomware attack hit, 230,000 computers were affected across 150 countries. Users were locked out of their files and sent a message demanding that they pay a BitCoin ransom to regain access.

Worldwide, the WannaCry cybercrime is estimated to have caused $4 billion in financial losses.

Phishing

A phishing campaign is when spam emails, or other forms of communication, are sent en masse, with the intention of tricking recipients into doing something that undermines their security or the security of the organization they work for.

Phishing campaign messages may contain infected attachments or  links to malicious sites. Or they may ask the receiver to respond with confidential information

A famous example of a phishing scam from 2018 was one which took place over the World Cup. According to reports by Inc, the World Cup phishing scam involved emails that were sent to football fans.

These spam emails tried to entice fans with fake free trips to Moscow, where the World Cup was being hosted. People who opened and clicked on the links contained in these emails had their personal data stolen. 

Single strip of athletic field

Another type of phishing campaign is known as spear-phishing. These are targeted phishing campaigns which try to trick specific individuals into jeopardizing the security of the organization they work for. 

Unlike mass phishing campaigns, which are very general in style, spear-phishing messages are typically crafted to look like messages from a trusted source. For example, they are made to look like they have come from the CEO or the IT manager. They may not contain any visual clues that they are fake.

Distributed DoS attacks

Distributed DoS attacks (DDoS) are a type of cybercrime attack that cybercriminals use to bring down a system or network. Sometimes connected IoT (internet of things) devices are used to launch DDoS attacks.

A DDoS attack overwhelms a system by using one of the standard communication protocols it uses to spam the system with connection requests.

Cybercriminals who are carrying out cyberextortion may use the threat of a DDoS attack to demand money. Alternatively, a DDoS may be used as a distraction tactic while other type of cybercrime takes place.

A famous example of this type of attack is the 2017 DDoS attack on the UK National Lottery website. This brought the lottery’s website and mobile app offline, preventing UK citizens from playing.

Group of colourful bingo balls

How to protect yourself against cybercrime

So, now you understand the threat cybercrime represents, what are the best ways to protect your computer and your personal data? Here are our top tips:

Keep software and operating system updated

Keeping your software and operating system up to date ensures that you benefit from the latest security patches to protect your computer.

Use anti-virus software and keep it updated

Using anti-virus or a comprehensive internet security solution like Kaspersky Total Security is a smart way to protect your system from attacks.

Anti-virus software allows you to scan, detect and remove threats before they become a problem. Having this protection in place helps to protect your computer and your data from cybercrime, giving you piece of mind.

If you use anti-virus software, make sure you keep it updated to get the best level of protection.

Use strong passwords

Be sure to use strong passwords that people will not guess and do not record them anywhere. Or use a reputable password manager to generate strong passwords randomly to make this easier.

Never open attachments in spam emails

A classic way that computers get infected by malware attacks and other forms of cybercrime is via email attachments in spam emails. Never open an attachment from a sender you do not know.

Hands typing on laptop keyboard

Do not click on links in spam emails or untrusted websites

Another way people become victims of cybercrime is by clicking on links in spam emails or other messages, or unfamiliar websites. Avoid doing this to stay safe online.

Do not give out personal information unless secure

Never give out personal data over the phone or via email unless you are completely sure the line or email is secure. Make certain that you are speaking to the person you think you are. 

Contact companies directly about suspicious requests

If you get asked for data from a company who has called you, hang up. Call them back using the number on their official website to ensure you are speaking to them and not a cybercriminal. 

Ideally, use a different phone because cybercriminals can hold the line open. When you think you’ve re-dialed, they can pretend to be from the bank or other organization that you think you’re speaking to.

Woman using mobile phone

Be mindful of which website URLs you visit

Keep an eye on the URLs you are clicking on. Do they look legitimate? Avoid clicking on links with unfamiliar or spammy looking URLs.

If your internet security product includes functionality to secure online transactions, ensure it is enabled before carrying out financial transactions online.

Keep an eye on your bank statements

Our tips should help you avoid falling foul of cybercrime. However, if all else fails, spotting that you have become a victim of cybercrime quickly is important.

Keep an eye on your bank statements and query any unfamiliar transactions with the bank. The bank can investigate whether they are fraudulent.

Now you understand the threat of cybercrime, protect yourself from it. Learn more about Kaspersky Total Security.

Tips on how to protect yourself against cybercrime

Learn what cybercrime is. We define cybercrime, explain what counts as cybercrime, and tell you how to protect yourself against it.

Kaspersky Logo