Cybercrime is on the rise; there is essentially no debate about this. Not only are exponentially there more cyberattacks on individuals and businesses year over year — not only is new malware being developed in almost incomprehensible quantities — but cyberattacks are having significant real-world effects that are becoming more and more difficult to recover from.
In 2022, cybercrime cost the global economy over $7 trillion, and by 2025, that amount is expected to rise to over $10.5 trillion. Worse, cybercriminals are gaining access to increasingly sensitive systems and machinery. Many private and public services have fallen victim to cyberattack, shutting down essential utilities and threatening public safety. It is conceivable that a black-hat hacking group could wrest control of nuclear facilities or weapons silos, putting the entire world population at risk.
So, if cybercrime is indeed rising, what is being done about it? The answer is complicated.
State Agencies Track Major Cyber Criminals
Authorities around the world have been aware of the potential threat of cybercrime for decades, and most governments have divisions devoted to tracking cybercrime and thwarting it where they can. In fact, there have been several high-profile busts of cybercrime rings during the Digital Age; just within the last few weeks, the FBI and Europol identified and disrupted a German cybercrime gang named DoppelPaymer, known for producing ransomware targeting large companies and stealing millions of euros.
Different state agencies approach cybercrime in different ways. In the U.S., the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) takes the lead on directing the nation’s cybercrime response. The DOJ’s plan to fight cybercrime maintains many strategies, from deterring new cybercriminals and disrupting active cybercriminals to strengthening partnerships with other groups capable of combatting cybercrime.
However, there are weaknesses to entrusting the DOJ alone to eliminate cybercrime. The DOJ’s jurisdiction extends only to the border, and many of the most nefarious cybercrime rings are in countries that have poor relationships with the U.S.: Russia and China, for example. Additionally, the DOJ does not have unlimited resources; it tends to focus its efforts on capturing larger cybercrime gangs, leaving many smaller bad actors to continue causing online harm.
Finally, much of what occurs online is anonymous, and cybercriminals take pains to make their work difficult to trace. Thus, it can take years of surveillance and research for the DOJ and its partners to identify the real people perpetrating cybercrimes, in which time countless vicious and devastating attacks have likely occurred.
What Can You Do to Stop Cybercrime?
The world cannot function without dedicated authorities pursuing cybercriminals and actively reducing the frequency of cybercrime. Individuals alone do not have the power to disincentivize cybercriminals, especially considering that so many individuals lack fundamental cybersecurity knowledge and skill. Still, there are some things you can do as an individual to contribute to the global fight against cybercrime.
For one, you might consider launching a career in cybersecurity. There is currently an immense demand for cybersecurity professionals; as cybercrime rates climb, more organizations recognize the importance of having trained and experienced cybersecurity workers on their IT teams. You might pursue online cybersecurity degrees that provide deeper insights into the tools and strategies for protecting data and devices. Then, you might work to protect individual networks or find positions with state agencies to take down cybercriminals around the world.
At the very least, you should practice and maintain good cyber hygiene. The more difficult it is for cybercriminals to succeed in attacks, the less attractive cybercrime becomes to the average bad actor. By maintaining strong cybersecurity across your systems, you disincentivize basic levels of cybercrime by requiring more advanced technical skill to access your data. Then, if fewer individuals and groups are able to access the entry levels of cybercrime, fewer are likely to gain the skill required for sophisticated methods.
Some cybersecurity tactics you should employ today include:
Maintain strong passwords. Passwords should be upwards of eight characters and never include personal information, like kids’ names or birthdates. You should change your passwords every few months and never share your passwords with others. You can use a password management tool to make your passwords more secure.
Update software. Over time, applications develop vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit to gain access to your network. You should enable automatic update installation to ensure that all your software is as secure as possible.
Invest in a high-quality security suite. Every device that connects to the internet should be protected by a cybersecurity tool that actively scans for threats. You should invest in a highly regarded security platform from a well-known name in cybersecurity, like Norton, TrendMicro, McAfee and others.
Cybercrime will continue to rise for the foreseeable future — unless the entire world takes a more aggressive stance against those who perpetrate cyberattacks. A change in the cybercrime tide could begin with you, so you should do everything you can do usher a new age of cybersecurity.