A cybercrime attack refers to a criminal activity that involves the use of virtual platforms, such as the internet, to execute illegal activities that can result in data theft, identity theft, extortion, cyberbullying, financial fraud, and many other diverse forms of crimes. Just as the traditional form of crime leaves behind physical evidences for investigation, cybercrime leaves behind digital footprints, which makes it easier for forensic experts to trace and investigate the attack.
The world today is entirely interconnected, and technology plays a significant role in creating opportunities for individuals and organizations to access boundless possibilities. Nonetheless, the use of technology has exposed individuals and enterprises to a range of cyber-attacks, which pose a substantial threat to their reputation, financial stability, and security. As the world becomes more digital, so do the advances in cybercrimes as criminals look for new ways to exploit the system.
Types of Cybercrime Attack
There are various types of cybercrime attacks that can be perpetuated by a lone attacker or by a group of attackers. Here are a few examples:
Social Engineering Attack – social engineering attacks are tactics used by attackers to gain access to protected information. The attackers behind these tactics use various means, including phishing emails, pretexting, baiting, tailgating, vishing and other manipulative techniques to exploit human psychology to gain access to top secret information.
Malware Attack – malware is any malicious program designed by attackers to collect and distribute valuable information about victims' accounts, device and system compromises. Malware or virus attacks can cause significant damage to electronic devices, which can result in data loss or a complete system crash. Examples of malware attacks include worms, trojan horses, spyware, ransomware, scareware and adware.
Man-in-the-Middle Attack – as the name suggests, a man-in-the-middle attack refers to an attacker who intercepts communications between two individuals or entities to gain access to personal or sensitive information. The attacker covertly monitors the communication between the two parties and can read, modify, or corrupt the messages.
SQL Injection attacks – SQL or Structured Query Language injection attacks are attacks targeted on database versions, which mean that the attacker uses a specific interface to control the database server. These attacks often occur where the attackers inject a malicious code to bypass security protocols of the database system.
Denial of Service (DDoS) Attack – a DDoS attack is designed to overload a server or website with numerous requests until it becomes inaccessible to users. These attacks are used mostly by criminal networks or extortionists as a way to disrupt normal business operations and make illegitimate financial demands.
Examples of Cybercrime Attack
In 2013, a large target data breach occurred, where cybercriminals gained access to over 40 million credit and debit cards, together with customer personal information. The cybercriminals targeted their Point of Sale (POS) system with malicious software that intercepted user data as it was keyed in. Subsequently, this allowed the attackers to access sensitive customer data, including credit and debit card numbers. This attack is considered as one of the most significant cybercrimes resulting in $18.5 million in settlement costs for legal suits brought against the retailer.
Also, in 2015, the U.S Office of Personnel and Management experienced one of the most significant data breaches in U.S history, where the attackers stole more than 21.5 million records containing sensitive information such as social security numbers, background investigation reports, and employee information. To perpetrate the breach, attackers used a social engineer attack to gain access to the Office of Personnel Management's systems.
Another example of a cybercrime attack is the WannaCry Ransomware Attack of 2017, where cyber criminals exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft software to launch an attack that affected organizations worldwide. The attack propagated quickly through networks, damaging files and locking users out. The criminals demanded a bitcoin payment to provide the users with a decryption key that would restore access, resulting in huge financial losses and exposing the vulnerability of large enterprise infrastructure.
Preventive Measures to Fight Cybercrime
As cybercrime continues to evolve, it is essential to adopt proactive measures to mitigate the effects of an attack. Here are a few examples:
Maintain a strong password – always use complex alphanumeric passwords and keep them updated regularly.
Update software regularly – update your software regularly to ensure that all available patches and updates have been installed, thereby reducing vulnerabilities.
Use Antivirus - use updated antivirus programs to identify and remove malicious software from your device.
Enable firewalls - Enable firewalls on your electronic devices, computer systems, and networks to prevent unauthorized access and block suspicious traffic.
Training and education – Organizations should provide continuous training and education to employees to identify and mitigate the risks associated with cybercrime.
The prevalence of cybercrime attacks in today’s digital world is undeniable, given recent events. The need to be knowledgeable about the dangers of cybercrime and the measures to stop attacks is more significant as we continue with digital transformation. As a society, we all need to cultivate a culture of safety and awareness as it gives us an edge in the fight against cybercrime. Together with continuous education and proactive measures, we can combat this evolving threat.