Cyber crime is a growing threat that is getting more complex, sophisticated, and specialized—making cyber crimes far more challenging to detect and investigate. According to the 5th Annual Global Cost of Cyber Crime Study conducted by Ponemon Institute, the average time to resolve a cyber attack has risen to 45 days, up from 32 days the year prior. Cyber crimes and the expertise that’s used to hack systems pose increased harm to companies and individuals. There are criminals operating across the globe and in nearly 200 different countries who continue to develop large-scale attacks targeting corporate networks and smaller assaults aimed at stealing personal information from individuals.

The increase in the quantity and quality of cyber crimes is alarming. In fact, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence ranks cyber crime as the highest threat to our country’s national security, above terrorism, espionage, and weapons of mass destruction. Just as these criminals are collaborating to steal data, we must create a united front where organizations, leaders, and individuals maintain awareness of the common tactics used and take necessary, routine precautions to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and other forms of cyber crime.

How can a hacker get into my computer?

Hackers gain access through a variety of ways with the most common being web-based attacks. These well-planned attacks are designed to locate weak entry points into corporate networks and take advantage of the most common things we do as individuals while using the Internet. For instance, cyber criminals know that opening email attachments, clicking on hyperlinks, and installing our own software and system updates have become a standard practice for the everyday online user. We do these things mostly without thinking. Criminals use our autopilot mode-of-thinking to their advantage and disguise attacks.

Safeguard Your Personal Information

Stop. Think. Connect. Sound familiar? This is actually the name of the cyber security campaign launched by the Anti-Phishing Working Group and National Cyber Security Alliance. The goal of the campaign is to increase awareness of cyber crimes and encourage online users to stop and understand the risks associated with using the Internet and to think before clicking. Sadly, clicking without thinking is still common practice, but there’s a bright side. Recent research revealed that 93% of Americans feel their online actions can help make the Web safer for everyone. It’s a matter of staying on top of the tactics being used and maintaining proper protection.

Is That Email Really From Aunt Sally?

identify thieves impersonate victims

Maybe--Maybe not. Email is a primary gateway for cyber criminals to gain access to your personal information so make sure you stop, think, and review all components of an email before you take any action:

  • Check the sender: often email addresses are disguised by a name you may know, so make sure you look deeper and read the actual email address.
  • Check the subject line: a common tactic used by criminals is to send you an email with a personalized subject line. Your name may appear in the subject line, but that’s no indication that the sender knows you. Beware.
  • Read the body of the email: make sure you read the hyperlink and mouse over to see the actual website address before you click.

If you have any doubt, simply delete the email and call your dear Aunt Sally. She’ll be happy to hear from you anyway. Read our prevention tips guide for more online safety tips.

Have You Been Hacked?

If you haven’t purchased security software or kept your anti-virus program updated, make sure you do so as quickly as possible. Other programs that will safeguard your computer include anti-malware and anti-spyware. Adjust your internet setting to increase your browser’s security strength. 

Beware: cyber criminals will hide viruses in software that’s designed to look like security software. A safe bet is to purchase software from a well-known electronics and technology store. Do not download software you're not sure about.

Because cyber crimes are becoming increasingly harder to detect, it’s possible your computer has already been hacked. Take action now to protect yourself from future cyber attacks. Stop and think before you act and purchase software that will scan your computer for viruses and protect you moving forward.