Hackers, Spammers, and Cybercriminals
The world has become more dependent on the Internet and computers due to the increasing proliferation of technology. Today, any successful business requires the use of computers. In line, having isolated computer systems is not enough; thus, there is the need for computers to be networked in order to ease communication with the external world. The same need increases a company’s exposure to cybercrimes. Businesses lose millions of dollars annually due to cybercrimes such as hacking and spamming, among others. A cybercrime presupposes the use of a network, Internet, or computer as a tool or object of committing illegal activities. Cybercriminals might use the World Wide Web to exploit victims or employ a computer technology to access organizational trade secrets and personal information (Das & Nayak, 2013). A cybercrime is a fast-growing area of crime with an increasing figure of criminals taking advantage of anonymity, convenience, and speed of the Internet to commit illegal crimes that present threat to victims globally. Organizations need to protect themselves against hackers, spammers, and cybercriminals by implementing various security measures to prevent unauthorized access.
An individual who manipulates networks or computer systems’ weakness to gain unauthorized access is called a hacker (Das & Nayak, 2013). As a rule, these individuals are equipped with proficient computer knowledge of computer security and computer software (Kirwan & Power, 2013). The aim of hackers’ actions determines how they are categorized. There are various categories, including a phreaker who exploits weaknesses in telephones and not computers. Also, there are ethical hackers that identify weaknesses of systems and gain access to fix the issue. Hacktivist hackers are individuals who hijack a website and leave religious, political, and social messages on them. Another category includes grey hats who gain unauthorized access to computer systems in order to identify weaknesses and describe them to system owners. There are cracker hackers who hack computer systems for personal gain by transferring funds from bank accounts, violating privacy rights, and stealing corporate information. Additionally, another hacker category includes script kiddies who use already made tools to access computer systems because they lack skills (Taylor, Fritsch, & Liederbach, 2014). Nonetheless, protecting computer systems from hackers completely proves to be challenging; therefore, it is essential to implement various security measures such as the use of passwords, managing computer networks, and system hardening to aid in minimizing the possible hacking.
Organizations have a legal obligation to safeguard customer data from being stolen by hackers. Most organizations store sensitive information regarding employees or customers in special databases. Moreover, valuable trade secrets are stored on their networks, as well. It makes both legal and business sense to ensure that these data are secure (Atlas, 2013). Numerous data privacy and data security laws have been adopted by the federal government that firms should comply to ensure the privacy of their data. Examples of such laws include the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and Computer Security Act. All make it illegal to access computers without authorization (Jewkes, 2013). Together with privacy laws, organizations are legally mandated to employ measures aimed at ensuring data security and protection against theft by hackers.
One of the prevention measures that an organization can adopt in trying to prevent hackers to gain illegal access to company information is making use of passwords (Sutton, Cherney, & White, 2013). Generally, passwords remain an efficient way to prevent hacking. Businesses should implement strong password policies, which include a minimum of eight secure characters, a mix of numeric and alphabetic characters of lower and upper register. In addition, a frequent change of passwords is required. System hardening is another prevention measure (Sutton et al., 2013). Here, the process is performed in steps to escalate the number of defensive layers and decrease the exposed attack surface. System hardening includes configuring the operating system for the optimal security, deactivating unwanted software vulnerable to the attack, and configuring software for convenient use. Additionally, organizations can manage computer networks as a prevention measure since most hackers exploit loopholes in the company network. Information security departments should be established to monitor every activity connected to securing company data and networks (Holt & Bossler, 2015). The data loss to hackers can be a major setback to any organization regardless of its size; therefore, it is vital to be aware of new hacking techniques to develop security measures and protect company’s systems and networks.
Both spammers and hackers participate in illegal online activities that hinder the smooth operation of most if not all organizations. However, they have different motives and take different actions. Spammers, unlike hackers, are jokers. Spammers post stuff that they want an individual to see and click on it, including advertisement (Jewkes, 2013). Usually, emails are the preferred means of spread. Although spamming is not considered a serious hacking, it is essential to adopt prevention measures such as monitoring email agent’s settings, reporting suspicious behavior, guard email address, and think before clicking any advert in order to eliminate spam as much as possible.
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Spamming can be prevented by monitoring the settings of devices and reporting any suspicious behavior using spam filters such as SpamBayers for windows, Red Earth, and POPFile for both Mac and Windows (Jewkes, 2013). Also, organizations should ensure the privacy settings are in place in order to prevent marketing from various sites in their Yahoo and AOL. Additionally, organizations with the IT department should inform their employees to forward any noticed spam. The department might manage to tweak filters to block similar impending emails. Another prevention measure is guarding email address and keeping it secret and safe. The email address should not be put in plain text on the business website. Omitting ‘@’ symbols and periods on email disguises the email; it aids in tricking spammers. It is not recommended to use the business email address when registering in a group or website. In case an organization is signing up for a service, it is important to register for domains, or request additional information, use a free email address such as Yahoo! or Gmail to create an additional address. Also, an organization can utilize a modified version of its email address. Before joining a list, businesses should ensure the owner or webmaster will not sell their address. It is essential to check if opting out of receiving unsolicited email from such site is allowed. However, if unsure, it is recommended to read the site’s privacy statement (Holt & Bossler, 2015). These prevention measures help in preventing unwanted spams.
Although organizations can be victims of spamming on their own, it is crucially important that they refrain from spamming their customers with emails, as well (Jewkes, 2013). While there are no laws that forbid spamming, there is legislation to regulate this activity, including the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM) that list the requirements for organizations when engaging in commercial messages and provides recipients with the right to stop receiving emails, as well as sets the penalty for violations (Loader & Thomas, 2013). Several laws have been adopted to forbid organizations from harvesting emails with several states requiring emails sent to customers to have an opt-out option.
In the past years, before the Internet, criminals had to intercept people’s mail for stealing their personal information. Currently, all this information is available online; thus, criminals take advantage of the World Wide Web to acquire people’s identities, infect computer systems and devices with malware, trick individuals into revealing information, and hack their accounts (Kirwan & Power, 2013). Cybercriminals discover new tricks for old crimes, turning cybercrime into business and creating international criminal communities. Usually, criminal communities share tools and strategies and join forces to launch organized attacks. Also, they own secret marketplace where cybercriminals exchange stolen information and identities (Kirwan & Power, 2013). Generally, it has proved almost impossible to crack down on cybercriminals since the Internet allows cybercriminals to operate from anywhere in the world anonymously. Most computers utilized in cyber-attacks are hacked and controlled by an individual distantly. Therefore, it is vital for businesses to adopt effective ways of preventing cybercrimes such as upgrading operating systems, installing firewalls, and conducting regular information backups (Holt & Bossler, 2015).
Cybercrime emerged a few years back; thus, the world experiences the lack of available experts to train cyber defenders. However, a number of institutions are currently offering degrees in cyber forensic and cybercrime fields in order to train these experts (Atlas, 2013). Additionally, software developers have collaborated with police to analyze cybercrimes and prevent future attacks. Also, software developers train, develop, and provide cybercrime units with tools that are essential in collecting and processing evidence. In their turn, law enforcement agencies and governments have formed teams of devoted individuals for tracking down cyber criminals (Collins, Ricks, & Van Meter, 2015). For instance, in the US, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) formed a special cyber investigation department, which facilitated the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 offers the public a simple reporting system to aid in alerting authorities of suspected violations.
Businesses can upgrade their operating system as a form of prevention from cybercriminals. The operating system on computers controls every activity in the system, including sensitive and private company information (Hinduja & Kooi, 2013). However, while designing operating systems, software developers consider the user security first. Therefore, upgrading the operating system of company computers automatically protects the business against invasion. Newest versions are fortified with strong protection against cybercrimes (Hinduja & Kooi, 2013). Another prevention measure is installing firewalls. Firewalls are specifically designed to function as the entry to the network. Therefore, installing potent firewalls on business computer systems prevents attacks of cybercriminals. Regular backing up of information is another prevention technique. Organizations should back up data, files, and various resources that are important to the business. Business safety is guaranteed if information back up is done regularly. In the case of invasion that might cause the loss of company information, one can always turn to the backed up files. In the recent years, cybercrimes have been on the rise; therefore, most governments have developed appropriate laws (Loader & Thomas, 2013).
Cybercrime is quickly becoming an ever-increasing area of modern crime with the evolution of cloud and mobile technologies. Cybercrimes has become a real threat to organizations and businesses. Cybercrime offenders take advantage of the Internet speed, convenience, and anonymity to commit cybercrimes. However, in order for organizations to overcome cyber threats, various prevention measures should be implemented. They include the use of passwords, system hardening, managing computer networks, guarding the email address, reporting any suspicious behavior, monitoring, conducting regular data backups, installing firewalls, and upgrading the operating system to prevent hackers, spammers, and cybercriminals. Generally, governments have also played a role in preventing electronic crimes by ensuring cybercrime and cyber forensic fields are now offered in various institutions to provide experts to aid deal with cybercriminals. Therefore, security agencies should continue being up to date with newest technologies and tools to manage cyber-attacks.