Cyber Crimes

cybercrime.jpgSince its invention, the computer has proved to be a blessing for people all over the world. It has replaced labor force and makes work easier for everyone. It has numerous functions and with the Internet, it brings the world into our homes and provides a wide range of information for everyone. It has made the world a small place and brings the world to us. But this invention has proved to be a mixed blessing for all with the advent of cyber crimes. When defined simply, cyber crimes are crimes where computer or Internet is an essential part of the crime. The term also includes traditional crimes where computers or the Internet network is used to enable the illegal activity. Interestingly, the first-ever recorded cyber crime took place in the year 1820. Cyber crimes are of many types, most common being phishing, hacking, identity theft, cyber stalking, securities fraud, online gambling, etc. With the advancing technology, the intensity of these crimes has been increasing so much so that researches have shown that Britain has a new cyber crime committed every ten seconds. However, experts believe that about 90 per cent of cyber crimes stay unreported.

According to a study performed by Shirley Mc Guire, a specialist in psychology, University of San Francisco, the majority of teenagers who hack and invade computer systems are doing for fun rather than with the aim of causing actual harm. She mentioned that quite often, parents are unable to understand the motivation of these teenage hackers She performed an anonymous experiment questioning more than 4,800 students in the area of San Diego. Her results were presented at the American Psychological Association conference where it was revealed that 38 per cent of teenagers were involved in software piracy, 18 per cent of all teenagers confessed of entering or using the information stored on other personal computer or website and 13 per cent of all youngsters confessed that they performed changes in computer systems or computer files. The study showed that only 1 out of 10 hackers were interested in causing certain harm or earning money.

Most teenagers performed the illegal activity out of sheer curiosity or experiencing excitement. Social networking sites are also not left untouched when it comes to cyber crimes as many complaints are received nowadays about the fake profiles being created there leading to crimes. Certain types of cyber crimes have gained prominence these days and are committed every now and then. The most common cyber crime is phishing. In simple terms, phishing is criminally acquiring sensitive information like account number, PIN number, credit card details by posing as trustworthy organization in an electronic communication. Organizations like ICICI bank, eBay, Pay Pal and many other bank websites are common targets. Phishing is undertaken mostly through email and instant messaging where victims are asked to enter details onto a website. It is an example of social engineering where techniques are used to fool others. Nevertheless, not all phishing attacks require fake websites. For example, sometimes messages that claimed to be from bank told people to dial a number for all their bank problems. When people do dial, they are asked to enter their details like account number, PIN number, credit card details, etc. this is called vishing or voice phishing. The hacker sometimes uses fake caller ID to give the appearance of trusted organizations. The damage caused by phishing ranges from denial to the access to email to substantial financial loss. Another cyber crime is identity theft which involves illegal usage of another’s identity. The most common form of identity theft is credit card fraud.

Financial identity theft occurs when the criminal obtains a loan from a financial institution by impersonating someone else. The criminal pretends to be the victim by providing genuine details like name, address, birth date or other proofs that are essential to establish the identity of the victim. Identity cloning and concealment is another identity theft where a criminal acquires personal identifiers, and then impersonates someone for concealment from authorities. This may be done by a person who wants to avoid arrest for crimes, someone who is working illegally in a foreign country, or someone who is hiding from creditors or other individuals. When a criminal identifies himself or herself to the police as being someone else, the case is called a Criminal Identity Theft.

The criminal may use state ID belonging to other person to conceal his identity. Cyber stalking is another grave cyber crime where internet or other electronic means to stalk someone. It has been defined as the use of information and communications technology, particularly the Internet, by an individual or group of individuals to harass another individual, group of individuals, or organization. A number of key factors have been identified in relation to cyber stalking which mainly includes false accusations where many stalkers try to sabotage the victims or turn other people against them. They post false information on their websites or blogs about the victim which may lead to constant harassing of the victim by the stalker or other people. The stalker may also order objectionable goods on the behalf of the victim and order them at their home or work place. Cyber stalkers meet or target the victims by befriending them on search engines and social networking sites. Some cyber stalking practices may then lead to physical stalking of the victim. Like the above mentioned cyber crimes, there are many unreported crimes which harm each of us at one point of time or other. But they can be prevented by following simple rules like not providing one’s real name, address, phone number occupation, marital status, passwords or account information to anyone through email, chatrooms, social networking sites or newsgroups.

A criminal may represent himself to be a teenager, professional or anyone who suits the purpose of both the parties. Adults are just as susceptible to these crimes as the kids are. Proper awareness and guidance are an absolute necessity so that the crimes can be controlled before becoming a full-grown technological menace.

Neha Pant

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