Cybercrime constitutes any and all criminal activities carried out by means of computers or the Internet. While it has been around for quite some time, cybercrime continues to grow in scope and sophistication, to the tune of $600 billion USD in 2018 alone. As consumers increasingly allow technology into their personal lives, this technology stores and builds on troves of private data. Consider, for example, the information available in some popular everyday objects:
- Personal health data, sleep schedules, and geolocations from wearable health trackers
- Shopping history, account information, and passive conversations picked up on voice-controlled devices
- Private conversations on social media accounts
- Browsing history, photos, website passwords, and account information on cellphones
Your entire life, from the intimate to the mundane, is becoming increasingly digital, and your digital information may be uniquely accessible to a worldwide audience of potential perpetrators. The more this digitization becomes ubiquitous and standard, the more you may be prone to disregarding the inherent risks as society as a whole is lulled into complacency. In fact, a Pew Research study determined that many Internet users cannot correctly answer more than half the questions on a cybersecurity quiz.
Understanding cybercrime starts with understanding immediate criminal activity, including, but not limited to:
- Obtaining bank account information
- Identity theft
- Online predation
- Unauthorized computer access
While children and the elderly are frequent targets because they are less likely to be actively monitoring their personal information, such as credit scores, let alone cybersecurity trends, anyone and everyone can be at risk. That’s because there is no single way cybercriminals operate. They may attack their victims using a variety of different methodologies:
- Viruses and malware that alter computer behavior
- Phishing, which utilizes decoy emails and websites to trick users
- Cyberstalking, in which a harasser abuses social media to manipulate victims
- Network attacks, such as Denial of Service, designed to break an institution’s web presence and/or security
Ultimately, cybercriminals may be after personal information, money, or even computer resources for a variety of reasons. If you think you may be encountering a cybercriminal, there are a few telltale signs. Cybercriminals may:
- be individuals seeking either money or revenge
- have ties to, and seek to fund, terrorist groups
- commit cybercrime to disrupt institutions they disagree with
- seek inappropriate information or activity from victims
- belong to a rogue government regime
From illegally sharing copyrighted songs to revealing top-secret government documents, cybercrime is a wide and constantly-evolving threat that serves no single purpose.
How to Protect Yourself Against Cybercrime
Cybercrime might be a massive problem, but there are ways to protect yourself online. Many are simple and immediately effective. New security measures are being developed all the time to keep pace with criminals, so it’s important to stay aware of current trends. An excellent foundation includes the following precautions:
- Use strong and unique passwords, combining letters, numbers, and special characters. Don’t use easily-guessed words or numbers, such as a partner’s name or birthdate.
- Have an up-to-date Internet security suite for real-time protection against viruses and malware. Keep your other programs updated, too: both security suites and commonly-used programs update constantly as they implement safeguards against new threats.
- Control your social media by keeping personal information private. Cybercriminals may only need a few bits of personal information—such as the name of your pet—to clear security questions. Play it safe and share as little as possible.
- Maintain a strong home network. A VPN encrypts all information as it leaves your devices, meaning hackers will only be able to intercept nearly impossible to decipher traffic.
- Take note of major breaches in the news. If you’ve done business with an institution that has suffered a data breach, determine what information may have been stolen, and immediately change your password.
- Remember to keep your security as portable as you are. Whether at a local café or visiting another country, be sure to implement the same safeguards, such as a VPN, even if it requires extra work.
- Monitor the particularly vulnerable persons in your life, such as children and the elderly. Not only are they easier targets, but these groups are not likely to be checking their credit scores and other metrics that might raise red flags.
What Does it Mean to Get a Degree in Cybersecurity?
Cybercrime is a massive problem, and it requires a massive response. A specialized MS in criminal justice is an excellent foundation in this battle, providing the basics on how modern technology and crime fighting meet. The techniques are drastically different from the physical world applications of criminal justice, so it is important to have this foundational education.
With a Cybercrime & Technology Specialization, you will take CRJ 621, a course in Cybercrime Investigation, which will teach you how Internet crimes are investigated, how to conduct an online crime scene, and how to build a case. CRJ 626, Computer Forensics, will instruct you on how computer forensics is applied to modern devices and technology, such as cell phones and global positioning systems. Lastly, CRJ 631, Security & Protection for Cybercrime, teaches the rights of potential victims and how to protect them, be they minors or global brands.
With this solid foundation, the opportunities available are keeping pace with the threat of cybercrime.
No matter your passion when it comes to cybersecurity, the biggest takeaway is job security: job postings in the field have risen 74% in the last five years, leaving 1 million unfilled positions. A degree with a focus in cybersecurity offers flexibility, pursuit of a noble goal, job security, and a fascinating career.
Make an impact on the world at large by taking a stand against cybercriminals and the increasing threat they pose. Contact a UAGC advisor, today and get started toward a career that will help shape a safer digital landscape.