Cyber crime is one of the fastest growing areas of crime. Our daily lives, economic growth, and national security depend on a stable, safe, and resilient cyberspace. We rely on this vast array of networks to communicate and travel, power our homes and run our economy. Yet cyber crimes have increased over the last decade, exposing sensitive personal and business information, disrupting critical operations, and imposing high costs on the economy. More and more criminals are exploiting the speed, convenience and anonymity that modern technologies offer in order to commit a diverse range of criminal activities. These include attacks against computer data and systems, identity theft, as well as the deployment of viruses, and various email scams such as phishing. Additionally, the threat of terrorism forces authorities to address security vulnerabilities related to information technology infrastructure such as power plants, electrical grids, information systems and the computer systems of government and major companies. Cyber crime even encompasses the realms of cyber bullies and cyber predators.
Although cyber crime is a serious concern, learning about the risks is the first step to protecting yourself. Explore the information below to learn more about what you can do to stay safe online!
Cover photo courtesy of Interpol
Banner photo courtesy of the DHS
Within text photo courtesy of the FBI
While cyber crime encompasses a number of different areas, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family before an incident occurs.
Protecting yourself against cyber criminals:
- Use and regularly update antivirus and antispyware software on all your electronic devices.
- Keep your internet browsers up to date.
- Only connect to the Internet over secure, password protected networks.
- Do not click on links or pop-ups, open attachments, or respond to emails from unknown individuals.
- Always enter a URL by hand instead of following links if you are unsure of the sender.
- Do not respond to online requests for personal information; most organizations such as banks, universities, and companies do not ask for your personal information over the Internet.
- Limit who you are sharing information with by reviewing the privacy settings on your social media accounts.
- Trust your gut; if you think an offer is too good to be true, then it probably is.
- Password protect all devices that connect to the Internet and user accounts.
- Use strong passwords. Strong passwords use letters, numbers, and symbols, and are easy to remember, but difficult to guess.
- Do not use the same password twice and change them frequently.
- If you see something suspicious, report it to the proper authorities.
Protecting yourself against cyber predators:
- Never share your personal information with someone you don’t know.
- Do not post personal information, such as your phone number or email address on social media sites.
- Do not meet with people in person with whom your only contact has been online.
- Avoid any sort of sexual talk online.
- Use privacy settings to restrict who can see your online profile.
Protecting yourself against cyber bullies:
- If you are bullied online or on your phone, ignore it. Bullies look for a response, and ignoring it will help it to stop.
- Block or delete any cyber bullies from your social media profiles.
- Stand up for others being bullied. Bullies will usually stop if another person steps in to stop it.
- If you are a parent, talk to your kids about cyber bullying and its effects. Teach your children good online etiquette and be a good example to them.
The following are immediate actions to take if you encounter instances of cyber crime:
If you suspect you’ve been a victim of cyber theft or intrusion:
- Check to make sure the software on all of your systems is up-to-date.
- Run a scan to make sure your system is not infected or acting suspiciously.
- If you find a problem, disconnect your device from the Internet and perform a full system restore.
If you believe your personal information is compromised:
- Immediately change all passwords; financial passwords first. If you used the same password for multiple resources, make sure to change it for each account, and do not use that password in the future.
- If you believe the compromise was caused by malicious code, disconnect your computer from the Internet.
- Restart your computer in safe mode and perform a full system restore.
- Contact banks where you have accounts, as well as credit reporting companies.
- Close any accounts that may have been compromised. Watch for any unexplainable or unauthorized charges to your accounts.
If you encounter a cyber predator:
- Immediately cease contact with the individual.
- Report the incident to local law enforcement.
If you are a victim of cyber bullying:
- Report the bully to an adult or other authority. While fear may make it difficult to report the problem, talking to someone about it will help it stop.
- Block or delete the bully from any social media or other types of contact.
- Do your best to ignore instances of bullying.
There are steps you can take after an incident of cyber crime to help prevent becoming a victim a second time.
If you are a victim of cyber crime:
- File a report with the local police so there is an official record of the incident.
- Report online crime or fraud to your local United States Secret Service (USSS) Electronic Crimes Task Force or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- If your PII was compromised, consider other information that may be at risk. Depending what information was stolen, you may need to contact other agencies, such as the Social Security Administration.
- For further information on preventing and identifying threats, visit US-CERT’s Alerts and Tips page.
If you are a victim of a cyber predator:
- Make sure to file a report with your local police department. If the victim was a child, also report the incident to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
- Take steps in the future to protect your personal information (see before tab).
If you are a victim of cyber bullying:
- Make sure you report the bullying to authorities.
- Do your best to avoid the bullies in the future.
- Talk about the issue with your parents or other adults. They can assist you in stopping the problem and help you cope.
References, Resources and More Information:
- Ready.gov – Cyber Attack
- United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team
- Internet Crime Complaint Center
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security Stop.Think.Connect.
- FBI – Cyber Crime
- STOP. THINK. CONNECT.
Cyber Bullying Research Center
- The Cyberbullying Research Center is dedicated to providing up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying, and the negative use of social networking among adolescents. This web site provides cyberbullying research, stories, cases, downloads, fact sheets, online quizzes, tips and strategies, news headlines, a blog, and a number of other helpful resources on their comprehensive public service web site.
- Report Cyberbullying or inappropriate conduct to social media sites, search engines, cell phone providers, internet providers, and internet games.
Cyber-Safety Action Guide
- A tool created by the Anti-Defamation League. Click the links for various online companies and social media sites to learn their general hate speech policies, cyberbullying/harassment policies, and how to report hate speech, cyberbullying, and harassment.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Privacy and Identity Information
- This website contains information on computer security, kids’ online safety, protecting your identity, and repairing identity theft.
- Safeguarding Your Child’s Future – An FTC Document on how to protect your child’s identify from identity thieves.
Internet Safety 101
- Supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) this information is produced by Enough Is Enough (EIE), a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, emerged in 1994 as the national leader on the front lines to make the Internet safer for children and families. Since then, EIE has pioneered and led the effort to confront online pornography, child pornography, child stalking and sexual predation with innovative initiatives and effective communications.
Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids about Being Online
- A booklet published by the FTC designed to offer parents practical tips on helping their children navigate the online world.
- The Netsmartz Workshop is an interactive, educational safety resource from the National Center for missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) for children aged 5 to 17, parents, guardians, educators, and law enforcement that uses age-appropriate, 3-D activities to teach children how to stay safe on the Internet.
Safe Online Surfing (SOS)
- This site, launched by the FBI in 2012, is a site where website where students can learn about cyber safety through games, videos, and other interactive features. It teaches kids in third through eighth grades how to recognize and respond to online dangers such as cyberbullying, online predators, and identity thieves.
- Created by the National Cyber Security Alliance, this site provides tools to teach online safety, tips on how to stay safe online, and information on how to protect your business.
- A website created by the Federal Trade Commission that offers information on how to avoid scams, protect kids online, secure your computer, and browse the internet safely.
Cyber Security Tip Sheets
- Ten Cybersecurity Tips for Small Business – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security
- Small Business Cybersecurity Tip Card – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security
- Government Cybersecurity Tip Card – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security
- Rules ‘n Tools Checklist – Internet Safety Tool for Parents – Internet Safety 101
- Cyber Tips for Older Americans – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security
- Cybersecurity for Kids Tip Card – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security
- Grades K-8 Student Tip Card – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security
- Grades 9-12 Student Tip Card – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security
- College Student Tip Card – Stop. Think. Connect. – Department of Homeland Security
Internet Safety Pledges – From Netsmartz
- Middle and High School