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Responding to cyber crimes

Cyber crimes include computer intrusions, cyber fraud, cyber espionage, and cyber terrorism.  In July, a college student was sentenced to one year in prison on charges of wire fraud, unauthorized use of a computer, and identity theft.  He stole over 700 identities and passwords of his fellow classmates by installing small devices called keyloggers that captures and stores a user’s keystrokes.  Read the FBI press release.  Cyber crime is real.

How much of your daily life relies on using an electronic device?  Do you know how much of your personal information is stored on your own devices or someone else’s systems?  Think about the different companies you do business with such as the Division of Motor Vehicles, medical offices, employers, financial institutions, and loan companies.  More than likely, these places are storing your information on online systems.  Responding to a cyber crime incident is very important. 

Here are 5 common symptoms of cyber crimes and their corresponding responses.

1. You try to log in to a website and cannot log in even though you know your username and password are correct. 

Response:  Give the website a  few minutes and try to log in again.  If you can log in, change your password immediately as a precaution.   As always, be sure to use strong and unique passwords.

If you still are unable to log in, contact the service provider or  website immediately.  Most online providers provide some way to notify them that your account has been hacked through methods such as a phone number, online forms, or an email address.

2.  A business or website announces their user accounts or passwords have been compromised.

Response:  Change your username and password immediately.  This is why using a unique password for all of your accounts is so important.  If you did use this username and password for other accounts you will need to change each of these accounts as well.

3.  Your computer is running programs you never installed.

Response:  Make sure you are running the latest anti-virus software.  Run a full scan and if the anti-virus finds any suspicious files follow the instructions to remove them.

4.  You noticed unauthorized credit transactions on your statement.

Response:  Contact the credit card provider immediately and ask to have this account cancelled.  They should be willing to issue you another account and card for free.  You will also need to discuss with them which transactions you did not make.

5.  You receive a statement from your health insurance company with claims for treatments you did not receive.

Response:  Call your insurance provider and explain you believe there has been some type of fraud with your account.  Be patient because fraud cases can take a while to resolve.

What is the cost of a cyber crime?

Sometimes the cost of being a victim of cyber crime cannot be measured.  Just ask the victim who lost his book draft he had been working on for 2 years.  Or ask the victim who just realized her bank account now has a balance of $0.  How do you measure the cost of time it is going to take both of these victims to regain what they have lost?  Respond as quickly as possible if you think you have been the victim of a cyber crime.

Next week’s theme:  Critical infrastructure

Image by Flickr user Don Hankins / CC BY-SA 2.0

Christina Bonds

Christina Bonds is an Application Specialist in the Web Technology department at Elon University.

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