Cybercrime: What drives digital crime?
Cybercrime is an umbrella term for illegal criminal activity that's either initiated or takes place directly on the internet.
In today's highly digitized landscape, it's now increasingly possible for less sophisticated attackers to carry out advanced attacks. With ransomware-as-a-service and malware-as-a-service freely available on the Dark Web, just about any criminal can take advantage of partially or fully automated cyberattacks.
The cyberattack spectrum ranges from phishing campaigns, ransomware attacks, DDoS attacks, and more.
Since the advent of the internet, we've had cybercrime. One of the most famous hackers in the early 1990s was Kevin Mitnick. Sentenced to several years in prison for repeatedly penetrating sensitive networks, he now works as an IT security expert supporting both enterprises and government agencies.
However, over the last three decades, cybercrime has changed significantly. While hacking was driven mainly by boredom in the early days of the internet, it's now transformed into big business. For example, according to Chainalysis, crypto-ransomware payments in the first quarter of 2021 added up to $81 million.
What are the leading types of cyberattacks?
Botnet attacks are increasingly common. Botnets consist of thousands of networked robots which are automated to initiate predefined tasks or attacks.
Botnets are essentially malware and operate without the user's knowledge on hijacked laptops, servers, and any device connected to the internet. This means that these attacks also target devices like IP cameras, smart TVs, network printers, and more.
Collectively, these botnets are powerful. They carry out credential stuffing attacks and DDoS attacks.
Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS attacks is one of the most common attack vectors in the current threat landscape. They essentially cause a distributed service blockage to crash digital processes with a flood of requests.
Cybercriminals usually set up trojans within distributed botnets and use them as weapons. An advanced DDoS attack can bring down unprotected websites and servers for several hours or even several days.
Criminals often spread malware through spam emails on a massive scale. In this scenario, the attacks include cross-site scripting and manipulated links to spread malware.
This approach helps threat actors exploit potential vulnerabilities in enterprise infrastructure. Once installed, malware is used for several different purposes. Sometimes they can just lie there unnoticed, collecting sensitive data. Other times, they are activated to take over your whole infrastructure remotely.
Social engineering attacks like phishing are as old as internet crime itself. But they are just as effective today and used extensively to steal login information. This data is then used to engage in identity theft or sold for profit on the Dark Web.
The most common phishing campaigns target credentials for online banking and payment services. Hackers usually send out mass spam emails with links to lure unassuming users to fake banking websites (that look like the real ones). Whenever the URL structure seems almost identical to the actual domain address, it's known as a homograph attack.
Malware tasked with extorting ransom payments is known as ransomware. These trojans often go unnoticed in the background encrypting valuable files. Unfortunately, by the time the victim becomes aware of this nefarious activity, it's too late as the infrastructure is hijacked and the data is already encrypted.
Hackers hold organizations of all sizes as digital hostages for ransom payment. However, even after payment, there have been many cases where the victim didn't receive the hackers' decryption keys.
So, the key drivers of cybercrime can be any or all of the following:
- Chaos and instability
- Getting a competitive advantage
- Monetary gain
How can businesses protect themselves?
To successfully fight against threat actors, businesses must always follow cybersecurity best practices. However, what's best for your company depends on the size, environment, and more. Regulatory compliance requirements also come into play here.
Today, several businesses move internal processes and workloads to the cloud to ensure robust security, real-time monitoring, and efficient management. For example, our customers partner with us to access cloud security protocols, military-grade encryption, and ethical hacking services.