Cyber crimes are the most common of, but only one part of the spectrum of activity referred to as “Cyber Attacks”, but such incidents aren’t “attacks”. They are theft, vandalism, blackmail, or ransom or indeed any version of illegal activities that have affected society for thousands of years.
The major differences between “cybercrime” and “conventional” crime is the scale of the effect that can be achieved. Traditional theft is limited by how much swag the perpetrators can physically carry. Cyber crime is not. Traditional crime, unlike cybercrime, can often be investigated and solved within one national jurisdiction. Cyber criminals can carry out crimes against their victims simultaneously, very cheaply and without necessarily leaving “home”.
Does that sound scary? It doesn’t have to be. The police and other agencies are really good at thwarting conventional crime, they’ve had many years to develop new methods of crime fighting, from taking fingerprints to DNA profiling to other sophisticated techniques. The same principles apply to Cyber Terrorism, Cyber Warfare, and On-line Activism etc. – each sitting at different parts of the “Cyberattack” spectrum.
Normalising the Hacker
The Portrayal of “hackers” in the media conjures up evil masterminds or sophisticated military units based in some secret bunker and surrounded by racks and racks of highly expensive and sophisticated equipment. Of course, many do work for nation states, subversive or proscribed organisations or sophisticated international criminal gangs. Many hackers, however, are bored teenagers operating and experimenting out of their bedrooms or their parent’s basement or are regular self-taught criminals who find this type of crime somewhat less arduous than others. Just like any opportunistic thief, these hackers would rather attempt to steal from an easy target and just like other types of criminal they rely on their victims’ naivety and carelessness. When looking for a target, a hacker will typically choose something that will not require too much effort to attack.
As with any regular criminal, if security is deemed too tight they will move on and seek out easier prey. If every person and organisation put effective, basic security into place the incidents we see on a regular basis will fall. By demystifying hackers and their mindset, they don’t seem as scary.
By Matthew Olney – Communications and Content Executive at PGI (This article was first published in the New Statesman)