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Cybercrime is any form of criminal activity committed using a computer and the Internet.
A cybercrime has occurred when someone attacks a computer system, uses a computer to commit a crime, or stores any type of illegal information on a computer. In all of these cases, a computer refers to any type of computer device, be it a PC, company server, smartphone, or other such device.
Common examples of cybercrime include illegally downloading music, secretly installing keylogger software on someone’s computer to steal passwords, sending phishing e-mail, online credit card fraud, identity theft, and cyberterrorism.
Frequently Asked Questions
Aside from the Internet, how is a cybercrime different from a regular crime?
Many of the crimes that can be committed without the use of a computer or the Internet are now being committed online. While the root crime is essentially the same, the method dramatically changes the scope of the crime. If you were planning on copying some CDs, chances are you would borrow a handful from your friends, burn them all, and then be done. Thanks to the Internet, you can easily download hundreds of albums in a matter of hours. Similarly, stealing credit card numbers without a computer requires a thief to gain direct access to each card. With a computer, the thief can place a skimmer on a local card reader and steal thousands of cards a day, or hack into a retail chain’s secure servers and steal millions of cards.
How have mobile devices changed cybercrime?
Mobile devices have made cybercrime even easier to commit. Not only do they allow cybercriminals to set up and commit crimes from anywhere, but they have created a whole new market for them to target. In order to gain access to your home computer to search for personal information, the criminal either has to break into your house or trick you into installing malware. Now most of us carry all that same information in our pockets or purses. He can steal your device, or wait for you to use the public Wi-Fi and track your activity. While he’s at it, he can use his phone to download the credit card information on the skimming device at the counter.
How can I protect myself from cybercrime?
There is no way to fully protect yourself from cybercrime. There are new data breaches every day, and chances are your information has already been compromised. But there are steps you can take to prevent anyone from taking over your computer and using it to steal from you:
- Keep your operating system up-to-date and make sure you have the latest antivirus software installed.
- Set strict rules for your computer’s firewall.
- Don’t click links contained in emails.
- Avoid file sharing networks.
- Never give out your information to someone you meet online or who solicits you online.
- When paying for something online or providing your personal information, always check for the lock icon next to the address bar.
- Keep your passwords secret and change them often.
For more tips, see our Stay Safe pages.