What is Cybercrime?

Cybercrime is a bigger risk now than ever before due to the sheer number of connected
people and devices.

You often hear the term ‘cybercrime’ bandied about these days, as it's a bigger risk now than ever before due to the sheer number of connected people and devices. But what is it exactly? In a nutshell, it is simply a crime that has some kind of computer or cyber aspect to it. To go into more detail is not as straightforward, as it takes shape in a variety of different formats. We’ve put together this guide with some interesting and often alarming facts, to make it a little easier to digest:

Cybercrime: The facts

  • Cybercrime has now surpassed illegal drug trafficking as a criminal moneymaker
  • Somebody’s identity is stolen every 3 seconds as a result of cybercrime
  • Without a sophisticated security package, your unprotected PC can become infected within four minutes of connecting to the Internet.

Criminals committing cybercrime use a number of methods, depending on their skill-set and their goal. Here are some of the different ways cybercrime can take shape:

  • Theft of personal data
  • Copyright infringement
  • Fraud
  • Child pornography
  • Cyberstalking
  • Bullying

As you can see, cybercrime covers a wide range of different attacks, that all deserve their own unique approach when it comes to improving our computer's safety and protecting ourselves. Symantec draws from all the different interpretations of cybercrime and defines it concisely as "any crime that is committed using a computer network or hardware device".

The computer or device may be the agent of the crime, the facilitator of the crime, or the target of the crime. The crime may take place on the computer alone or in addition to other locations. The broad range of cybercrime can be better understood by dividing it into two overall categories, defined for the purpose of this research as Type I and Type II cybercrime. Let’s take a look at them both:

Type 1 cybercrime

  • Usually a single event from the perspective of the victim. An example would be where the victim unknowingly downloads a Trojan horse virus, which installs a keystroke logger on his or her machine. The keystroke logger allows the hacker to steal private data such as internet banking and email passwords.
  • Another common form of Type 1 cybercrime is phishing. This is where the victim receives a supposedly legitimate email (quite often claiming to be a bank or credit card company) with a link that leads to a hostile website. Once the link is clicked, the PC can then be infected with a virus.
  • Hackers often carry out Type 1 cybercrime by taking advantage of flaws in a web browser to place a Trojan horse virus onto the unprotected victims computer
  • Any cybercrime that relates to theft or manipulation of data or services via hacking or viruses, identity theft, and bank or e-commerce fraud.

Type 2 cybercrime

  • Type 2 cybercrime tends to be much more serious and covers things such as cyberstalking and harassment, child predation, extortion, blackmail, stock market manipulation, complex corporate espionage, and planning or carrying out terrorist activities.
  • It is generally an on-going series of events, involving repeated interactions with the target. For example, the target is contacted in a chat room by someone who, over time, attempts to establish a relationship. Eventually, the criminal exploits the relationship to commit a crime. Or, members of a terrorist cell or criminal organisation may use hidden messages to communicate in a public forum to plan activities or discuss money laundering locations, for example.
  • More often than not, it is facilitated by programs that do not fit under the classification crimeware. For example, conversations may take place using IM (instant messaging) clients or files may be transferred using FTP.