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Types of CyberCrime and Identity Theft

Security news: the latest Android security threat, the DroidDream trojan, gives remote hackers access to everything on your Android phone – 200,000 users affected.
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One can't help thinking if only there was as much information available about how to stop identity theft as there was about the damage it had already done, we'd all be much better off. With all the recent coverage of identity theft statistics via the internet, it is almost like the global internet community is standing around watching a house on fire; indeed on the whole we seem to all be quite enjoying watching it burn. But that's only because it's generally someone else's house that's getting toasted. When it is your debit card that is drained of thousands and your bank won't reimburse you because you didn't spot the loss within 48 hours, the flames won't look quite so pretty anymore. There are, however, some very effective fireproofing methods available, ones that offer reliable and robust identity theft protection services for your computer and your smartphone. But first, exactly what are we talking about when we use the term identity theft…

Defining Identity Theft, Cybercrime Internet Fraud and Cyber Fraud

Identity theft is the stealing of personal credentials that can then be used for further theft – usually of money. This 'further theft' is often in the form of credit card fraud but could be anything from transferring funds out of a savings account, to burglary, car theft or even to just making your smartphone call premium rate phones numbers. The following forms of data are what identity thieves are after; and protection of them is essential if you are to have any success in identity theft prevention:

  • User's real name
  • User's IP address
  • Email address
  • Postal address
  • Credit card data or bank account data
  • Account passwords (not only to banking or shopping sites, but social media sites too)
  • Social security number
  • Driver's license number
  • Passport or ID card number
  • Date of birth
  • Town of birth
  • Mother's maiden name
  • GPS location data

This list is not exhaustive – many other forms of data have also been used against people for identity theft.

You may wonder how some of these pieces of information lead to theft – often the answer is only made clear after a theft occurs. Sometimes it never is. An email address, your name and town of birth might be enough to launch an effective phishing or pharming scam (where a cyber criminal imitates a legitimate company or person to convince you to part with money or banking details). An IP address might be enough to attack your computer with keylogging spyware that records and transmits back your online banking access codes. And your GPS data along with your postal address can be enough for a burglar to see you are far away from your house and organise a break-in. Although there seem to be no reliable identity theft statistics via the internet, most agree that, first of all, tens of millions of dollars are stolen in every country and, second, that this number is growing.

Now that I hopefully have your attention, let's look at some of the primary means identity theft is carried out and the best internet security options available to protect you from them:

Part II: Wireless Security

Part III: Internet Security Email Attachment Risks Advice

Part IV: Facebook Identity Theft Prevention

Written by: 
Robin Welles; expats team, internet security team