As the world becomes more reliant than ever on technology so does our individual risk of becoming a victim of cyber crime. Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are attempting to combat this growing problem, but the threat is growing steadily and rapidly. Many have already become victims of cyber stalking, hacking, theft, identity theft and malicious software.

Knowledge is power so understanding cyber crime is the first step in prevention. There are many types of cyber crimes and the most common include:

Cyber Stalking: This is online harassment on social media, emails and more. Victims of this type of cyber crime are harassed repeatedly. The majority of the time, these stalkers know their victims but people have been victims of cyber stalking from strangers as well. Cyber stalking can go hand in hand with stalking offline or it can remain online only.

Hacking: Hacking occurs when a person’s computer and in some cases smart phones are illegally accessed for personal and private information. Hacking is a felony in the United States. Criminals use a variety of software to gain access to a person’s devices while the victim may not even be aware that their computer/ phone is being accessed from a remote location.

Theft: Primarily cyber theft is known as illegal downloading of copyrighted material, photos, music, movies, games and other software. Several known pirating sites have been the subject of FBI investigations. Unbeknownst to many people there are laws against these illegal downloads.

Identity Theft: With the rise in internet usage for banking and other financial transactions, it has given rise to identity theft. Criminals access a person’s private information including bank account, credit cards, Social Security number and other sensitive information. This information is used to steal money from the victim either directly or by setting up fake credit cards and other accounts using the stolen information. Identity theft can result in major financial losses for the victim and harm their credit history.

Malicious Software: Most people have been the victim of viruses on their computer. These software programs are used to disrupt networks, cause damage, and sometimes steal a person’s sensitive and private information.

Staying Safe Online (Tips Sourced from the National Cyber Security Alliance)

Protect Your Devices
• Keep security software current: Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.
• Automate software updates: Many software programs will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks. Turn on automatic updates if that’s an available option.
• Protect all devices that connect to the Internet: Along with computers, smart phones, gaming systems, and other web-enabled devices also need protection from viruses and malware.
• Plug & scan: “USBs” and other external devices can be infected by viruses and malware. Use your security software to scan them.

Protect Personal Information

• Secure your accounts: Ask for protection beyond passwords. Many account providers now offer additional ways for you verify who you are before you conduct business on that site.
• Make passwords long and strong: Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password.
• Unique account, unique password: Separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cybercriminals.
• Own your online presence: When available, set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. This is also important on social media, where more information than they realized can be obtained from a simple unprotected Facebook page.

Don’t Get Taken

• When in doubt, throw it out: Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark as junk email.
• Wi-Fi hotspots: Limit the type of business you conduct and adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your machine.
• Shop and Bank Smart – Check to be sure the sites is security enabled. Look for web addresses with “https://” or “shttp://”, which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “Http://” is not secure.
• Think before you act: Be wary of communications that implores you to act immediately, offers something that sounds too good to be true, or asks for personal information.