The internet age has ushered in a new spin on crime. Cyber crimes can deplete victims of their savings, damage property, and destroy reputations.
Often, the effects of cybercrime are cascading, meaning victims continue to suffer the impacts of the crime which can potentially lead to personal injuries.
If you believe you've been a victim of a cybercrime or type of abuse online, you have options. Learn more about the types and causes of cyber crimes, who is held responsible, and what you can do about it.
What Is Cyber Crime?
Cybercrime is any criminal activity that takes place over a computer or networked device. Between 2020 and 2021, the number of cyber crimes reported to the FBI by the public rose by 7%, to 847,376.
Anyone can commit a cyber crime. Some criminals are individuals, while others work with groups or organizations. The victims of cyber crimes can be anyone, young and old, public figures, or average citizens.
The feature all cyber crimes have in common is the presence of a computer. In some cases, criminals use a computer to commit the crime itself. For example, a criminal may hack into a computer and then use the hacked device to send malicious code.
In other instances, criminals target computers when committing crimes. A hacker may gain access to a company's servers to steal confidential information, for instance.
Cyber Crime Examples
Many types of cybercrime exist. The following are just a few examples of the types of abuse that can occur online or through a computer:
- Data breaches: A data breach occurs when a third party gains access to information without permission. For example, a group of hackers may get access to a company's customer list and those customers' personal information. Data breaches can affect companies of all sizes.
- Online harassment: Online harassment, or cyberbullying, takes many forms and can include threats of physical abuse, name-calling and doxxing, or revealing personal information about a victim. In the U.S., 41% of adults report being victims of online harassment.
- Defamation: Defamation occurs when an individual or group publishes false information about another party, with the goal of damaging that party's reputation. Online, defamation typically takes place on social media and can involve making false posts about an individual or leaving damaging reviews about a business. In some cases, defamation occurs when an individual is negligent regarding the veracity of the statement.
- Cyberstalking: Cyberstalking is a crime that uses the internet to follow or harass an individual. Cyberstalkers may defame their victims, track their internet activity or attempt to blackmail them.
- Ransomware attacks: A ransomware attack takes place when a third party installs a software program on a device that blocks access to the other files on the device. Usually, the goal of the attack is to extort money or information from the affected party.
- Identity theft: Identity theft isn't exclusively a cybercrime, as bad actors can get access to people's personal information. But the rise in the use of the internet has increased the instances of cyber identity theft. Hackers can get access to personal information in multiple ways, such as by hacking into the systems of banks and financial institutions or sending individuals phishing emails, requesting personal data.
- Negligent security: As internet crimes have become more common, security measures to protect against them have become stronger. An organization that doesn't have robust security measures in place, such as multi-factor authentication or strong password requirements, may be found to be negligent.
What Causes Cyber Crimes?
Whether it's cyberstalking or another form of online harassment or identity theft or a data breach, cyber crime typically stems from two causes.
Many cyber crimes depend on individuals' ignorance. For example, one tactic hackers often use is to pose as a financial institution, asking users to provide their PINs or passwords.
Individuals receive emails that look legitimate, so they unknowingly deliver their personal information to a third party.
In some cases, individuals may not be aware of the factors required to safeguard their information or accounts. Some of the most commonly leaked passwords are easy to guess, such as "12345" or "password." Learning how to create a stronger password allows people to protect their data.
Ignorance can also lead to cyberbullying or stalking. An individual may believe they have connected with a former classmate or friend on social media, only to have that connection turn out to be a cyberbully.
Inadequate Security Measures
Inadequate security measures facilitate cyber crimes. Companies can become complacent regarding security and not keep up with changing recommendations or protocols.
Or, a company may never implement strong authentication measures, such as requiring two-factor authentication or strong passwords.
Whether intentional or not, negligence regarding security can leave the door wide open to cyber criminals.
Who Is Responsible in Cyber Crime Cases?
Whether it's cyberbullying, a data breach or a ransomware attack, who's to blame when a cyber crime occurs?
Obviously, the perpetrators of the crime are responsible for it occurring. But you may be able to assign blame to the organization that experienced the attack or the individual victim of the attack.
For example, if a person falls for a phishing scam and hands their password over to a cybercriminal, they played a role in the crime, even if it was an unknowing role.
Companies that are aware of security insufficiencies or that don't take adequate steps to protect customers' personal information can also be found liable or negligent following a cybercrime.
In the case of cyberbullying or stalking that occurs over social media, it can often be difficult to hold the social media platform responsible. That's thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects internet service providers and social media platforms from damages as a result of statements individuals publish on them.
How to Prevent Cyber Crime
Cyber crime prevention takes multiple forms and occurs on several levels.
First, individuals can take steps to protect themselves from identity theft by changing their passwords regularly and signing up for identity monitoring. They can also learn to recognize phishing scams and what to do if they believe they've received a fraudulent message.
Organizations can adopt preventive measures such as using two or multi-factor authentication and requiring users to change passwords frequently.
Companies can also take steps to educate consumers about cybersecurity and safety. For example, financial institutions can remind customers that they will never ask for a password over email. Social media companies can publish guides or community guidelines covering cyberbullying and acceptable behavior.
If an organization isn't sure what it needs to do to keep private data secure, it can consult with an attorney to determine its responsibility.
Take Legal Action Against Cyber Threats
If you've been a victim of a cyber crime, you may be able to take legal action. You may be able to bring a civil case against a cyberbully. If an organization was negligent with its security measures, you may also have a case.
Hannon Legal Group is a Florida-based law firm specializing in negligent security, personal injury and malpractice. We believe that when individuals or companies cause harm, they should be held responsible for their actions. If you believe you've been a victim of cyber crime, contact us today to learn more about your legal options.