Cyber-crime: As real as it gets. (Week 8)
Cyber-crime, like regular crime, can occur in all sorts of variations and intensity. These crimes range from the mildly annoying to the downright destructive. Therefore, it is vital to recognize the different types of Cyber-crimes that one can be a victim of, and more importantly, protect him or herself from.
The Different Types of Cybercrime
Perhaps one of the less severe types of Cyber-crime, Spamming is viewed as more of an annoyance rather than something malicious. It is usually defined as the act of sending unsolicited e-mail in large quantities for the purpose of advertising. I would say it is comparable to companies making cold calls or a door-to-door salesman. It could cause inconvenience, but no major damage is done.
As the Internet grows to aid us more in our daily lives, especially in the field of e-commerce, it has inadvertently made us more vulnerable and exposed to threats. Let us take the real world as an example; if someone wants to steal our money or peek at our pin number, he or she would have to take great pains to do so because of the obvious factors involved. However, in the virtual world there are many ways one can steal passwords, obtain sensitive documents or hack into accounts; including the use of Trojan Horses, Worms and Bombs.
Cyber-bullying has been defined as “when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person”. However, it is not limited to that, cyber-stalking is can also manifest as a form of cyber-bullying when it escalates to cause distress and trauma for the victim. Statistics have shown that cyber-bullying is an epidemic faced by most teenagers. In America, the number has reached to almost half the teenage population. The dangerous consequence of cyber-bullying is it can drive impressionable and impulsive teenagers to depression, rage and in extreme cases suicide. The suicides of Megan Meier and Ryan Halligan are a couple of tragic examples where cyber-bullying led to death.
Protecting Yourself from Cyber-crimes
As cyber-crimes draw a parallel with crimes in real life, the ways in which we protect ourselves from them are also somewhat similar.
As we know, passwords are a staple in the online world. They are found everywhere; from MMORPG to iBanking accounts. And there are hackers who have developed countless of programs find out your password combinations. However, simply using a complicated and long password can thwart a lot of these programs. It is the same logic as using bigger and more locks on your doors. Sure it might be a slight inconvenience to remember a password, but it could save you a lot of trouble and heartache. Would you rather remember a 10-digit password or have all your contacts from your e-mail address book stolen from you? Some tips to keep in mind would be to use capital letters and special symbols along with the usual alphanumeric passwords. A password like “!MpR3Gn@b|3” would be a tough nut to crack.
Anti-Virus and Firewalls
As we continue to draw a parallel between the real and virtual worlds; firewalls and anti-viruses would be like having security guards standing in front of your doors and patrolling around your estate respectively. They work to keep out undesirable content and search your system to contain and dispatch of that can be seen as a threat. There are different types of software such as McAfee, BitDefender and Norton that offer comprehensive and updated anti-virus capabilities. There are even some types of software, such as AVG, that are free for download.
Being Alert and Savvy
Even with all the preventive measures, one of the most effective ways of preventing cyber-crime is to be alert and savvy. If you see a deal online that is too good to be true, it probably is. Do not give away valuable information such as personal particulars and credit card numbers to strangers who promise extravagant rewards and prizes, there is no such thing as a free lunch.
This point would especially be of value to victims of cyber-bullying and stalking. Parents and teachers should educate teenagers to take the high road and not succumb to bullies or even become bullies. Also, being sociable and positive are excellent methods to deal with bullying in any form.
It is inevitable that as IT becomes more advanced and ubiquitous, the rate and intensity of cyber-crime would rise as well. However, we should not be deterred and always be on constant vigilance. Ultimately, it will be you who would suffer for being complacent and ignorant. Updating and enforcing the security on your multimedia products is a key measure to take in this process of protecting yourself against cyber-crime. The virtual world like the real world; is a dangerous place.
Do not become a victim of cyber-crime!