Any crime committed by means of or by using a computer and an internet connection or computer technology is known as Cyber Crime. There is not just a single aspect to the definition of cyber crime. The crime can be anything. It spans from malware injection to hacking to social-identity thefts and more. The scope of this article is to answer the what is cyber crime and how Microsoft deals with it.
What is Cyber crime – Definition & Explanation
Any crime to which, a computer, and Internet or computer technology has been a part of, is known as Cyber crime. This is a very broad definition of cyber crime. If use of any of the following activities is made, to carry out a crime – then it can be classified as a Cyber crime:
- Stalking, Extortion, Blackmail, Bullying
- Phishing. See how you can avoid Phishing Scams and Attacks
- Exploiting vulnerabilities
- Social Engineering and Identity Theft (Fake emails, fake phone conversions using data obtained from Internet, to get more information about you and your bank, cards, etc.)
These are just the most basic aspects of cybercrime that I can recall at the time of writing. There are many more aspects to the illegal business – and in each instance of the illegal activity, there is one or more computer and/or an Internet connection involved. Such attack committed with a vie to committing a Cyber Crime can be called as a Cyber Attack.
We will read more about this in our next post on Types of Cybercrime.
Cyber crime incidence
Cyber crime is rampant!
There are nearly 400 million victims of cybercrime each year. And cybercrime costs consumers $113 billion per year. India, followed by Pakistan, Egypt, Brazil, Algeria and Mexico have the largest number of infected machines involving malware developed outside Eastern Europe.
- Cybercrime has now surpassed illegal drug trafficking as a criminal moneymaker
- An identity is stolen every 3 seconds as a result of cybercrime
- Without a sophisticated Internet security package, your Windows PC can become infected within 4 minutes of connecting to the Internet.
How to deal with Cyber crime – Prevention
Maintain good system hygiene. It goes without saying that you must have a fully updated operating system and installed software and a good security software to protect your computer – apart from having safe browsing habits.
Then, there may have been times when people may have contacted you claiming to be from a job portal or tech support or even your Bank and asked you for information initially and then maybe get you to make some payment for some imaginary service. Do not respond to such contacts. That is the first basic preventive step you can take. There are many who would fall prey to it and yet won’t report the matter.
To fight cybercrime, you have to report it, in case you have fallen prey. There is nothing to feel ashamed about! If an email or phone takes aid of a known or popular service or brand, you should always alert the service or brand, that their name is being misused, so that they can take appropriate steps and at the least, alert their other customers to not fall prey.
Besides, if a cybercrime has made you suffer physical, mental, or financial loss, you can report it to the concerned department that every government has nowadays. Each country takes cybercrime seriously and has organizations that work actively to tackle the crime and to bring the criminals to justice.
If your system has fallen prey to a Botnet, you may want to have a look at some Botnet Removal Tools.
Report Cyber crime
If you are in the US, you can report to Official Website of Department of Homeland Security. If it was a phone call or email, keep the logs and contents separately and securely as they will further help you. If it was a malware, you cannot do much except to hope that the organization, to which you have reported, comes up with some proper plan and takes some action.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). As a victim, you can report online Internet crime complaints here.
In case of spam, phishing and social engineering attacks, you can keep the communications as a proof, but in case of malware attacks which may have compromised your system, you do not know who the criminal is and hence you can’t progress much in the fight, on your own.
This is where Microsoft’s Cybercrime Security Cell comes in. It is Microsoft’s own way of fighting cybercrime and the idea is to prevent the crime from happening rather than waking up after the crime has been committed.
How Microsoft helps reduce Cyber crime
Microsoft says that the first step towards fighting cybercrime is to use secure, reliable and honest IT (Information Technology spanning from firmware to operating system to the cloud). While it is true that a well-protected computer would reduce chances of it getting hacked, it is also true that many computers come with pre-installed malware. That is why Microsoft used the word “honest”. You may not believe that many computers have pirated software installed on them, and in a way that they give false positives so that users believe the software is genuine. There are not many methods to detect the fake software (except for manual forensic methods) and these software are often bundled with malware that sends your information to the cyber criminals who created the fake software.
The Cybercrime page of Microsoft says that in a sample they tested, almost 90% of computers using pirated operating system or pirated software had the malware preinstalled. That means new Windows PCs were already infected and designed to send your personal information to the cyber criminals.
Microsoft has a huge cybercrime research cell which works in two ways:
- Fight the malware that are utilized by criminals via spambots etc.
- Gather information that helps them make better software for their cloud etc. platforms.
Microsoft has tapped the thousands of spambots originating from cybercriminals and led them to an artificial sink or honey pots, so that computers across the world, especially in East Asia-Pacific region are safe. According to their study, most of the infected computers are found in countries situated in East Asia and outside Europe. However, they, sitting at Redmond, are running an analysis all the while to counter whatever type of malware they can detect, and stop them from spreading any further to contain the damage.
Using pirated software leaves your computer systems more open to malicious computer viruses, worms and Trojans? Or that as many as 65% of DVDs and PCs sold with pirated software in India are already pre-infected with malware that facilitates cybercrime?!
These were some of the explosive findings of Microsoft India’s Truthlabs report
- About 65 percent of the samples had more than one category of malware.
- Auto-Dialer Trojans, which can cause huge financial losses, were found in 100 percent of the samples.
- 90 percent of the samples in the form of DVDs gave false positive results in Anti-Piracy Checktests, thereby cheating users to believe the installed product to be a genuine one.
In the words of Keshav Dhakad, Regional Director of Intellectual Property & Digital Crimes Unit (DCU), Asia, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft,
“With fighting malware and cybercrime, we also want cybercriminals to know that Microsoft platforms will always remain hostile to their nefarious activities, and we will continue to invest in innovative technology and tools to enable us to fight newer threats to protect our customers. That’s where we’ve been successful in creating a secure, trusted and reliable environment-be it on-premise or on the cloud”.
Some of the major anti-cybercrime tasks that Microsoft accomplished were against:
- Conficker (2010)
- Waledac (2010)
- Rustoc (2011)
- Kelihos (2011)
- Zeus (2012)
- Nitol (2012)
- Bamital (2013)
- Citadel (2013)
- ZeroAccess (2013)
- Game Over Zeus (2014)
- Bladabindi (2014) and
- Caphaw (2014)
Microsoft not only is building and rebuilding its software, it also warns cyber criminals against creating cyber bots and malware. According to Keshav, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 are some platforms that have the highest security features, and that Microsoft technology based cloud services have also safeguarded their clouds based on the inputs they gathered from their cybercrime cell.