Anyone who hears in the news about hacker attacks rarely feels personally hurt. Because many believe that this is a phenomenon that takes place in other parts of the world, far from Germany. But appearances are deceptive. In 2021 alone, the police in Germany recorded a total of 146,363 cases of cybercrime. So the problem is right on our doorstep. But what exactly is cybercrime and what can you do about it?
What is cybercrime?
According to VPNOverview.com, cybercrime is a crime that mainly occurs on the Internet. This can happen in many different ways, which is why it is very difficult to narrow down the topic.
One of the best known and most practiced forms of crime on the Internet is phishing. Criminals usually send messages in the form of e-mails with which they want to trick innocent people into transferring money or personal data, which they can then use to, for example, plunder your online account. These are often false invoices or reminders. Recently, a new variant of phishing with alleged messages from the DHL courier company has also been circulating.
However, email is no longer the only form of communication used for phishing attacks. Messenger services such as WhatsApp are also increasingly used. Chain letters are sent to warn you against viruses, hackers and other threats.
There is also often a link to alleged competitions from famous brands such as Adidas or McDonald’s. Whoever clicks on the link and actually enters the data can at best assume that they will be overwhelmed by a flood of ads because the data has been sold to an ad network. In the worst case, such a link also hides malware that nests itself in the smartphone and can cause further damage there.
Another very nasty form of cybercrime is identity theft or identity fraud. Fraudsters misuse consumers’ identities in many different areas. Using this data, for example, user accounts in various online stores are created and goods ordered, paid subscriptions for streaming services are made or a profile is created on a dating platform.
Thanks to the new identity, criminals can very easily do a lot of damage in a very short time. The consequences are often not completely reversed. Affected people should therefore act as quickly as possible. The first immediate measures are a complaint to the police and the relevant information to your bank.
How high is the damage caused by cybercrime in Germany?
If you want to get an idea of what the cybercrime-related sums are, you should take a look at the results of a study by the Bitkom digital association, which interviewed over 1,000 managing directors and cybersecurity people in the company.
According to the survey, the total damage caused to the German economy amounted to EUR 102.9 billion. Three-quarters of companies said they had been hit by the attack in the past two years. Another 13 percent at least suspect it.
It should be taken into account that only entrepreneurs were interviewed in this study. Damage caused to private individuals is not even included in this sum.
The 2021 “cybercrime situation” of the Federal Criminal Police Office also gives a good impression of an precarious situation. This is an increase of around twelve percent compared to the previous year. According to the report, the damage amounted to EUR 223.5 billion. This is roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product of countries like Portugal and New Zealand.
What can you do with crime?
The first expert tip for consumers is usually just common sense. It’s basically good intentions. On the one hand, however, the methods of criminals are becoming more and more sophisticated, and on the other, many older Internet users in particular do not have the necessary knowledge to immediately recognize fraud attempts.
The first step is therefore to become aware of the existing threats and risks. Anyone who knows that fraud attempts are taking place via WhatsApp and what they look like can also react accordingly, or better in this case: do not react.
It always pays to be skeptical about messages from strangers. And even if the sender is a trusted company, there are clear indications that the phishing attacks can be identified:
- The request is almost always urgent. The excuse is usually the tight deadline of the competition or the threat of deleting the account or charging high expenses in the absence of a response.
- Messages are often in English or poorly translated.
- Messages contain an attachment or a link that must be clicked.
- The greeting is impersonal. Recipients are not addressed by name.
- The e-mail address does not correspond to the correct structure of the alleged company.
If you are unsure, you have two options: either search Google for relevant information on phishing attacks by entering the sender’s name or the email subject in the search bar. It’s even safer to actually contact the purported company. However, not by clicking “Reply”, but by phone or via the contact form on the official website.
To arm yourself against attacks by criminals, preventive technical measures can also be applied. This includes, for example, regularly updating the computer and the software on it. Because updates are often imported to close the relevant security vulnerabilities.
If you want to surf anonymously and securely on your computer, you can also use a so-called virtual private network (VPN). This allows for safer and more private downloads, and provides additional protection against ad tracking and phishing attacks. Despite a VPN, however, it is important to have good antivirus software installed on your computer to protect your device from viruses and malware.
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