You are busy surfing the Web on your computer, and suddenly there is a vivid pop-up on your screen warning you of pending and unavoidable ransomware infection. If it’s the first time it’s happened, you may wonder what that’s all about and may click the prompt to find out how to rid your computer of it. That often doesn’t work out so well, and you wind up with a computer full of infuriating bugs. Or, worse yet, you wire money to some nameless person claiming they can get rid of the stuff that’s gumming up your device…..for a modest fee, that is.

Of course, you’re dealing with the same malicious person that put the malware on your computer in the first place. Many of them are not likely to fix what’s broke once they get their hands on your money, too. Most of the time, you never hear from them again, and you’re stuck with a computer that either acts like it’s possessed or blocks you from accessing it altogether. Guess what? You just became the victim of cybercrime.

Virtual extortion such as this can also happen on a grand scale when ransomware pros target and hobble large industries. The stakes are high in these cases, and companies often have to pay a great deal of money to take their IT systems back. In cases of hospital systems, it’s even more critical to get it back.

What is Cybercrime?

Cybercrime covers a broad scope of criminal offenses, but it is defined in tech terms as individuals, groups, or organizations that commit illegal activity through the use of computers and the Internet. The act can be nonmonetary such as when a hacker creates and causes viruses to proliferate on someone’s computer for kicks. It can also be for monetary gain as in cases when criminals obtain funds by stealing cash from online bank accounts

This virtual way of breaking the law is a relatively new concept, but it is quickly taking off. Cybercrime was developed shortly after the use of computers became mainstream, and wrongdoers found out afterward that they could exploit a computer for their gain.

The Glorification of Virtual Crimes

Hollywood often glamorizes hacking and other virtual crimes, and movie themes about them often revolve around nerd-types becoming super cool through various forms of cybercrime. Pop-culture aside, malware cybercrimes bred a new and lucrative industry in cybersecurity, which was developed to fight it.

The rumblings that cybersecurity was about to be huge started in 2006 when former Georgia Tech student Chris Klaus sold his cybersecurity company Internet Security Systems to IBM in 2006 for a staggering $1.3 billion. That change of hands was discussed in university lectures and business seminars for quite some time.

The Cybersecurity Market Breeds New Crime

In 2018, the global cybersecurity market had a market value of $118.78 billion, and it is expected to grow to $267.73 billion by 2024. That’s a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.5% from the years 2019-2024. On the other hand, by 2021, cybercrime is projected to cost $6 trillion.

The growing business of cybersecurity also led to a new and different type of cybercrime that doesn’t have a catchy phrase yet. However, it is when cybersecurity companies sell secrets about their client’s software and IT systems to ransomware companies. The ransomware company then knows how to go around the security of a company and exploit their internal systems.

Cognizant Attacked by Maze Ransomware

New Jersey-based firm Cognizant speculates that a third-party cybersecurity company may be behind selling data to an organization that unleashed the Maze ransomware attack on them. Cognizant said there was a “huge IT firm’s data selling for $200,000” in an ad shortly before the exploit.

The firm is currently working with law enforcement to find the underlying cause of the breach. Fraudsters can impact Cognizant’s customers if the stolen data is sold through the black market. The breach leaves them with a greater chance of falling victim to identity theft, the most commonly practiced form of cybercrime.

Cybercrime Statistics

There are scores of alarming and recent cyber statistics. Here are a few of them:

  • The scale and evolution of malicious activity is growing, and 780,000 records were lost per day in 2017.
  • There are more than 24,000 malicious mobile apps blocked per day.
  • Ransomware attacks are slated to quadruple by 2020. Also, the healthcare industry will get attacked the most.
  • When it comes to phishing emails, a common practice used to steal private information, 30 percent of them are opened by recipients.
  • The sheer volume of cybercriminals using Microsoft Office to spread malicious code has the company taking the #1 spot in the top ten most used malicious file extensions.
  • According to the 2020 Webroot Threat Report, “In 2018, 93.6 percent of malware was polymorphic, meaning it has the ability to constantly change its code to evade detection.”

Prominent Cybercrime Cases

In some cases, the cybercriminals get away. However, it’s been a banner year for law enforcement, and they are emerging with increased success against numerous cyberattacks. Here are a few examples of prominent cybercrime cases you may have heard about.

The Nigerian Letter

It is one of the earliest cybercrimes, but the Nigerian Letter is so prominent it is even listed on an FBI page of common scams. In this scam, a morally bankrupt entity makes a call of action through email or mailed letter to a willing victim (often a kindly  older person). In the letter, the scammers implore the victim to send money to them in several installments of increasing quantities. Victims usually go along with it because the author gives them a sob story or convinces them they will get some money out of the deal.

There is usually a promise in the communication that the victim’s expenses will be reimbursed, too, as soon as they can spirit the funds out of Nigeria. In actuality, the riches do not exist. In the end, the naive victim winds up with a loss. With this scam, you can’t get legal satisfaction since the Nigerian government isn’t very sympathetic. To them, the victim is conspiring to remove funds from their country in an unlawful manner. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

The Experian Breach

One famous and wide-reaching identity theft case is the Experian breach reported in 2013. In this case, Hieu Minh Ngo, a hacker and identity thief, was able to get a foothold in Experian and run an online identity theft service. He paid the credit reporting company thousands of dollars a month to get his hands on an estimated 200 million consumer records. Ngo later sold the identities to various nefarious characters and gained nearly $2 million for his crimes,

He was able to gain trust and access this sensitive information by posing as a licensed private investigator in the U.S. According to the Internal Revenue Service, hackers took the stolen data and obtained $65 million through fraudulent tax refunds. Ngo lived in Vietnam and was later placed under arrest after being lured out of his home country to Guam by the U.S. Secret Service. He pled guilty to federal charges related to identity theft and is currently serving 13 years in prison.

Another fallout from the Experian breach includes alleged wrongdoing by Experian. San Diego sued the credit bureau for not reporting the breach in a timely fashion as required by law.

Technology often makes our lives easier in so many ways, and it is unfortunate that lawbreakers often exploit it to take advantage of others. Cybercrime takes an intangible toll on victims, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to compensation. If you think that you can’t do anything after being injured by cybercrime, that is actually what the criminal is counting on. Make no mistake, cybercrime is considered a serious legal offense, and you can talk to the experienced and trusted Waterbury, CT criminal lawyers at the Moynahan Law Firm if you or someone you love has been a victim. Call us at (203) 597-6364 for a free case evaluation or contact us online with questions you may have.