The Latest in Cyber Crime— for Dummies

Too big, too vague and too fast to catch up with, it’s interesting yet fearful watching governments trying to regulate this borderless, intangible space that we now spend so much of our lives in: the infinite cyberworld. Along with newer online services have come more sophisticated crimes but with the same timeless purposes: to steal, to scare, to damage, to defame, or to inflict loss.

Before I started my internship three months ago, I was almost as clueless about cybercrime as its countless potential victims: online shoppers, e-tailers, FB users, online banking customers, advertisers, governments and entire countries— let’s just say everyone! So here’s a list of some of the newest cybercrimes you just have to be aware of:

Corporate IP Theft/ Commercial Espionage

Earlier, hackers made money by stealing people’s credit card numbers and selling them online for around $6 per piece. The latest McAfee-SAIC study shows that cyber criminals are building a huge underground economy by stealing far more valuable intellectual property (IP): that of corporations.  Trade secrets – such as designs, formulae, product specifications and processes, as well as marketing plans, R&D findings and even source code are now being leaked by insiders or extracted by sophisticated hackers from poorly protected company systems and sold to competitors and foreign governments at enormous prices. In January this year,  Renault, the second-largest automaker in France, suspended three of its managers for allegedly selling information related to the company’s electric car program. In 2008, three people were convicted of stealing marketing plans from Coca Cola.

 Malware on FB

Malware, short for ‘malicious software’, is known in law as a computer contaminant, and includes varied forms of hostile, intrusive, or annoying software or program code. Malware consists of computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, etc. A computer worm is self-replicating malware which uses a computer network to send copies of itself to other computers on the network and it may do so without any user intervention. This is due to security shortcomings on the target computer. So the next time you see stories in your Facebook newsfeed showing your friends ‘liking’ outrageous pornographic videos, start thinking MALWARE!

Phishing and Whaling

Although not amongst the latest cyber crimes, what  ‘phishing’ actually means is a mystery for most. Phishing is a way of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by pretending to be a trustworthy entity in electronic communcations like emails and instant messages. Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, banks, auction sites, online payment processors or IT administrators direct users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one.

Several recent phishing attacks have been directed specifically at senior executives and other high profile targets within businesses, and the term whaling has been coined for these kinds of attacks.

The latest prime targets of phishing are social networking sites— yes; sites where you connect with your friends, since the personal and login details entered in such sites can be stolen through phishing and used in identity theft that can in turn be used to facilitate other crimes including illegal immigration, terrorism, and espionage.

Cyber Warfare

The cyberworld is now officially recognized by the Pentagon as the fifth critical domain of warfare alongside land, sea, air and space. Cyberwarfare consists of  “actions by a nation-state to penetrate another nation’s computers or networks for the purposes of causing damage or disruption.” Cyberwarfare is waged through multiple techniques: espionage, sabotage of military equipment and systems, disruption and manipulation of national infrastructure, etc. Cyber espionage in this context is the act or practice of obtaining secrets from rival governments, competitors and enemies for military, political, or economic advantage illegally using IT. The US congress is currently considering the controversial “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act 2010“, which if approved, will give the American president vast emergency powers over parts of the Internet.

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No Place Like Home

Just the thought of it ceases the rush around us, immerses us into beautiful memories and drowns our hearts in longing. Its comfort, security and love left behind, we embark on student life; living with strangers, keeping everything locked, managing budgets, planning where and how to get every meal, allotting time to do laundry and clean the room—rarely having time to think of it, yet many a times intentionally avoiding thoughts of it, but surely, it lingers constantly in each of our minds…

The advice of a father, the kiss of a mother, the laughter of a younger sister, the fights with a brother, the family discussions, the meals together, the airport reunions, the waking up to sumptuous breakfasts, the peaceful sleep knowing that everything’s taken care of for you… truly, there’s no place like home.

Screaming with the agony of loss, they held on to the corpses of their family scattered through the streets… drenched in their blood as they embraced them, crying for them to come back, this was the last exchange between too many parents and children, husbands and wives, and siblings in Gaza. Children sat crying around their mother’s body for four days, trying to wake her up, not understanding why she was sleeping so long. Orphans wept throughout the city, no one coming to claim them, not knowing that they had no one left. Thousands of others with throbbing gunshot wounds, hanging limbs or phosphorous burns flooded the hospitals, the doctors not sleeping for 15 days because the patients were too many. Every few hours there were fresh announcements of death in the wards, and another anxious parent or relative or spouse fell down with grief.

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