We currently live in an electronic age of cellphones, computers, email and the Internet and, inevitably, cybercrime. Cyber criminals employ various methods to intercept communications, misappropriate intellectual property, acquire personal or business details and banking information and tricking unsuspecting victims into parting with their money or property.
Scareware – cyber criminals mislead individuals into downloading software onto their computers (for example, fake anti-virus software) by using fear tactics or other unethical marketing practices. The software downloaded is often ineffective or may appear to deal with certain types of virus, before infecting the computer with its own viruses. Individuals may then have to pay the cyber criminals to remove the viruses and their impacts.
Fiscal fraud – Cyber criminals can withhold taxes due, or make fraudulent claims for benefits by attacking official online channels (such as online self assessment forms). Theft from business – cyber criminals steal revenue online directly from businesses, which usually involves fraudulently obtaining access and looting company accounts and monetary reserves.
Extortion – Cyber criminals hold a company to ransom, often through deliberate denial of service (for example, by using malware to flood a company server with erroneous internet traffic) or by manipulating company website links, which can lead to extensive brand damage (for example, by redirecting links for a retailer website to an online pornography website).
Customer data loss – Cyber criminals steal sensitive customer data from a company (such as customer financial, medical or criminal record details) with the purpose of selling the data on to other criminal networks or using it themselves for blackmail attempts.
Industrial espionage – This takes many forms, such as a rival organisation (or associated third party) illegally accessing confidential information to gain competitive or strategic advantage (for example, by finding out a rival’s bid price) or to gain insider knowledge for financial gain. Cyber criminals could use the ‘insider’ information they glean to acquire or sell shares, or, in rare cases, by betting on currency fluctuations.
IP theft – Cyber criminals, often sponsored by rival organisations or nation states, steal ideas, designs, product specifications, trade secrets, process information or methodologies, which can greatly erode competitive advantage.
Money laundering – Cyber criminals use online means to launder the proceeds of criminal acts (for example, through complex, internet-enabled transfers between global or offshore bank accounts). This type of activity is usually associated with organised criminal networks that have a wide or international reach.