Australia

The Evolution Of Fraud: What Constitutes A Cybercriminal?

There has been a dramatic increase in cybercrime rates over the past few years in particular. What constitutes a cybercrime? In a nutshell, a cybercrime is essentially any crime that involves a computer and a network.

Cybercriminals use the internet and all the information it presents to commit various crimes, including identity theft, fraud, and copyright infringement, which is why NordVPN’s Threat Protection feature is so essential in this modern age.

Whilst the term “cybercrime” can encompass a wide range of malicious activities, there are certain characteristics common to most of these crimes and the people who commit them. First and foremost, cybercriminals are typically motivated by financial gain, so cybercrimes, more often than not, are driven by a monetary incentive. Hackers may use their skills to steal credit card numbers or personal information, which they can then sell on the dark web.

Additionally, many cybercriminals are skilled in computer programming and utilise this knowledge to create insidious malware or viruses that can infect computers and are growing trickier and trickier to detect for laymen.

As the internet continues to evolve, it is likely that the activities of cybercriminals will become even more sophisticated. Here are the most popular methods being used today.

Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are online fraud that involves coercing people into revealing personal information or making financial transactions. The scammer will usually pose as a reputable person or organisation, such as a bank or government agency like the ATO.

They will then send an email or pop-up message that appears to be from the legitimate organisation, often asking the recipient to update their account information or make a payment. If the victim responds with all the desired information, the scammer will then have access to their personal information, their account, and potentially even any financial assets associated with that account.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) figures show over 70,000 reported phishing scams were recorded over 2021 alone, and that these scams have cost Australian households and businesses a combined $4.32 million. On top of this, the ACCC has already recorded an additional 17,000 reported phishing scams for 2022 thus far, demonstrating that this particular breed of digital fraud is well and truly rampant in Australia.

Phishing scams can be very sophisticated, and it is important to be aware of the warning signs in order to protect yourself. If you receive a suspicious message, do not respond to it and do not click on any included links. Instead, contact the organisation directly to verify the communication. By being informed and cautious, you can help protect yourself from falling victim to a phishing scam.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a victim’s files and demands a ransom be paid in order to decrypt them. These scams have been around for many years, but have become more prevalent as cybercriminals have grown more adept at using them. There are many ways that ransomware can find its way to a personal or office computer, but the most common method is phishing emails.

These emails often contain attachments or links that, when clicked, will install the malware on the victim’s computer. Once installed, the ransomware will encrypt the victim’s files, making them inaccessible. The victim will then receive a message demanding a ransom be paid in order to decrypt their files. In some cases, the message will also threaten to delete the files if the ransom is not paid.

Ransomware scams can be very costly for victims, as they not only lose access to their files, but also often have to pay a substantial ransom to retrieve them. Incidents of ransomware in Australia increased by 60 per cent from 2020 to 2021 and resulted in a $1 billion hit to the Aussie economy.

These types of scams can be difficult to protect against, but there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk, such as being careful about which emails you open and click on and having a backup of your important files.

Data Breaches

A data breach occurs when sensitive, confidential, or private data is accessed or disclosed without authorisation. This can happen when an individual’s personal information, such as their driver’s licence number or credit card number, is stolen. It can also occur when a company’s confidential information is unlawfully accessed, such as its trade secrets or customer data.

A data breach can have serious consequences for individuals and businesses alike. Individuals may suffer financial loss or identity theft, while businesses incur reputational damage and legal liability. Australian businesses are required by law to report data breaches, which can have a huge flow-on impact on brand image and customer trust.

There are a number of steps that individuals and businesses can take to protect themselves from data breaches, including encrypting data, exercising caution when sharing information online, and maintaining up-to-date security software. By taking these precautions, individuals and businesses can help to ensure that their sensitive data remains safe and secure.

Identity Theft

Online identity theft is a type of fraud that involves using someone else’s personal information to steal money or gain other benefits. Cybercriminals committing identity theft may do so by taking over an existing online account, opening a new account in someone else’s name, or using personal information to apply for credit cards or loans under the names of their victims.

Identity theft can have devastating consequences for the victim, so it is important to take steps to protect yourself from this type of crime. One way to do this is by being careful about what personal information you share online. For example, you should never give out your TFN or credit card number without knowing that the representative or organisation receiving that information is legitimate, and that the information will be kept safe. In addition, you should keep an eye on your credit report and financial accounts to look for any signs of fraud.

If you suspect that you have been a victim of identity theft, you should act quickly to minimise the damage by contacting your bank and credit companies and reporting the crime to the police.

Keeping yourself secure online is largely about ensuring that your cybersecurity measures are thorough and kept up-to-date, and that you practice caution when surfing the web. Maintaining an awareness of the real dangers that await you when surfing the web can help you stay vigilant and thus, safe from falling victim to the most common forms of cybercrime that we’ve explored above.

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