A common plot of Hollywood thrillers is the “Don’t Answer the Phone” device. In this kind of movie, the babysitter is aware that there is a maniac about to come to kill her or the children. The big moment comes when she gets a phone call from the police who say “The calls are coming from inside the house!” Pretty scary stuff.
But we have a modern day version of “the maniac is inside the house”. The maniacs are actually hiding in the house but not in the closet, not in the basement, not in the attic but in the computer! And it isn’t just happening to an occasional unfortunate victim. These kinds of crimes are happening to thousands of people every day, people like you and me. It’s called cyber crime and it’s an epidemic that law enforcement is putting all the skill and detective work they can muster to try to control.
When you hear a phrase like “cyber crime”, it makes you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator as a heartless android out to create chaos. But cyber criminals are far more elusive than Arnold. More recently it's becoming known as "the dark web" where hackers hangout doing lord knows what. They could be any one in your neighborhood or halfway around the world. They don’t need a key to your back door or a tunnel under your house to get in. Cyber criminals can take up residence inside our computers and quietly commit crimes as we sit there enjoying our YouTube selections or messaging with Aunt Edna.
The problem is not that our legal system has not done a good job of defining crimes committed using the internet as crimes. The legal community has all the laws on the books that they need to stop these criminals. The problem comes with finding the criminals and even know when a crime is being committed. But despite the elusive nature of cyber criminals, some of the kinds of crimes that can be committed directly over the internet are pretty scary including…
* Identity theft.
* Embezzling hundreds, maybe thousands from your bank account.
* Hijacking an elderly person's Social Security checks.
* Cyber seduction of youth and even children.
* Unauthorized access to your financial information which they can sell to other cyber criminals.
* The downloading of computer viruses and other destructive software that can damage your computer.
* Cyber terrorism.
Amazingly, most of this kind of crime can be happening inside your computer without you ever knowing it is there. The key to success for cyber criminals are these little programs sometimes called “spybots”. A spybot is a tiny program that can take up residence in your computer by hiding in your internet system with cookies and other content that you download when you are surfing the web, playing games, or you just hit a certain dark web website. These programs can then capture and record your keystrokes and send them back to the cyber criminal who can capture your secure information from that data. Or they can watch your cyber surfing and learn where you go to help cyber criminals figure out better ways to commit their crimes.
Cyber crime is something we hope our law enforcement professionals will eventually learn how to stop. But because cyber criminals can be anywhere in the world, stay on the run and even change electronic locations of their “headquarters” without ever betraying their physical location or who they are, it’s a amazingly difficult job for our law enforcement professionals to learn how to find these criminals and to capture them and put them away.
Protect Yourself from The Dark Web
We can help by being ever vigilant about our computers. There are programs we can install that can “lock the front door” of our computers. The two top names in this kind of software are Norton and McAfee but there are dozens more that can do the job just as well, like our preferred vendor Malware Bytes. The good news is that these programs can simultaneously watch our emails, monitor for spybots and keep our computer clean of viruses and other internet surprises that can cause so much damage.
So just as we work with neighborhood watch and put locks on our doors even though there are police in our neighborhoods, we have to view cyber crime as a problem that everybody has to work together to stop. By making sure your computer is protected, you take one more victim out of the cycle. And that helps everybody in our quest for a safer internet.
In the early days of the Internet, spam was little more than an irritating nuisance. However, like every other aspect of the Internet, spam has evolved to become something far more nefarious in nature.
To understand just how big a problem spam has become, it will help to realize the sheer volume of unsolicited junk mail is sent out every day. More than 50% of all the trillions of email that is mailed out is spam.
This spam clogs up and wastes bandwidth, especially with the recent advent of image-based spam. It places a huge strain on servers and wastes a huge amount of time and money to deliver millions upon millions of unsolicited emails to the inboxes of recipients.
Mass Mailing Viruses
Aside from constantly inundating your inbox with unwanted email, spammers now also pose grave threats to the health of your computer
One of these new dangerous aspects of spam are that illicit senders can now manipulate your email addresses, and make it seem to the rest of the world that the spam that is sent is coming from your personal computer or domain. This may result in your service provider blocking your Internet connection, or terminating your account. And all of it can be done without any knowledge on your part. It can easily be made to seem that you are an actor in a malicious mail campaign when in fact you are an unwitting actor at best.
Email is the most common vehicle of choice for spreading viruses, and for hackers to get into your computer system. There is an increasing amount of this type of spam being mailed out of late. These small programs can be used in myriad harmful ways, including crashing your own system, crashing that of the parties you email or keystroke logging to gather your personal information.
Another insidious tactic that the spammers employ is called "Phishing." It involves the spammer sending out junk email that is specifically designed to look like it is from a reputable, legitimate source such as a reputable company like ebay or paypal. This spam utilizes the company's logo and official graphics.
The purpose of this type of spam is to get your personal and financial information. Often it will fraudulently send you to web sites where this information regarding email, finances, bank accounts or other personal info is gathered and used in illegal ways. Very often, the spammers will combine methods, spamming their victims with virus-laden software, phishing and other schemes that take spam to a whole new level of illicit, criminal activity.
A 2006 study by Consumer Reports estimated that in two years, Americans spent more than $7 billion on repairs and parts replacement resulting from viruses, malware and spyware. This does not take into account the cost to the Internet Providers who have to pay for all the bandwidth taken up by the spammers junk, or the cost in time, money and productivity to businesses that have to sort through all the spam.
Spam is no longer harmless, silly, or simply annoying. It is increasingly harmful and we need to protect against it.