Security Technology

Know Your Digital Enemy: Not All Criminals Carry Guns

Image courtesy of Pixabay

The vast majority of TV shows or movies portray criminals as muscular, tattooed, rough men shooting, kidnapping, and stealing. However, not every criminal has these characteristics. Some of them are called hackers, and their job is to steal your data or damage your computer system or network.

The Rise of Cybercriminals

Ever since the development of the first automatic machinery or communication systems, people have tried to exploit their weaknesses. Therefore, it is not surprising that the rise of the internet would cause a new kind of threat to appear – cybercrime. The value stolen or appropriated by these criminals every year is challenging even for the best movie characters to achieve.

Everyone’s a Target

Nowadays, anyone can become a victim of cybercrime. From an economic standpoint, small to medium businesses are most endangered. Why? They have a decent income and cash flow on their bank accounts but are not equipped to deal with serious cyber threats.

Of course, profit is not as high as when targeting high-profile companies, but the risks of getting caught are much smaller. Some cyber intrusions continue for months or even years before they are detected. This especially applies to western companies.

Consider the significance of the monetary value gap for a moment. For example, a small company in the US has a net income of $500k per year. Such companies, almost as a rule, have no cyber defense. Now, consider a theft-dedicated hacker coming from a less developed country, for example, India. Siphoning even 10% of the money from such a company could make her a relatively wealthy person in her country, with almost no risks on her side.

However, this doesn’t mean that only small businesses are targets. Large companies can fall prey to well-orchestrated and executed cyber attacks. For example, German vehicle manufacturing company LEONI, valued at approximately $5 billion, lost $30 million in 2017 due to a cyber-attack. Perpetrators? Never found.

Today, even ordinary households are targeted by various kinds of cyber threats. Again, this particularly applies to western countries, since the majority of online shopping goes on there. 

And since online shopping always requires you to give away personal information such as a bank account number or social security number, it is easy to see why cybercriminals managed to exploit the credit cards of 48% of Americans back in 2016.

All malicious software has to do is to stay in the shadows, monitor internet traffic, and send out information to its owner. There hasn’t been an email account that didn’t, at some point, receive an email with malicious malware attached to it. One wrong click and your PC will get infected with a ton of unwanted content.

It Is a Game of Countries As Well

It didn’t take long for governments to realize just how potent a weapon cyber attacks could be. The first cyberattack occurred during World War II when the British developed the first code-breaking machine to crack the infamous German Enigma code. After that, there have been many registered and reported (and nobody knows how many unregistered and covered up) attacks on vital government institutions.

The targets and purposes of the attacks vary. They are not aimed only at ordinary information gathering. Since network computers have become an essential part of every governmental institution and facility, attacks can cause real-life consequences.

For example, in 2010, Stuxnet was attacking Iranian nuclear facilities. This software was detected on-site and analyzed as specifically targeting Siemens industrial computers – PLCs. For those of you that don’t know, computers are used to monitor operations of any industrial complexes, but they do that over PLCs.

They are the ones communicating directly with machines and sensors, and this specific malware was designed to make centrifuges spin out of control, causing critical damage to them. At the same time, they were telling sensors that nothing was wrong with the system, making it hard to detect.

More recently, there has been much talk in the USA about Russian state-backed hackers influencing presidential elections through the removal of advertisements, posting fake news about the other side, etc. Of course, in these cases, no one claims responsibility; it is all done behind the curtain, in this invisible and subtle war.

Know Your Enemy

Even though most people are familiar with technology nowadays, they are still unaware of how subtle malware can be. Here are several types of threat and how they can affect you:

  • Botnets: They create a network of infected computers that act together for various purposes, usually to carry out a DDoS attack.
  • DDoS attacks: Attack on web servers in which hackers use botnets. They are carried out by flooding a server with requests that cause it to crash.
  • Hacking: An individual targeting of computers by a third party for the purpose of a personal information breach.
  • Malware: Consequence-wise, this is probably the least dangerous form of cyber threat for the user. However, it is the most common, annoying, and time-consuming. Malware includes trojans, worms, adware, etc.
  • Phishing: Online scam carried out by professionals who trick you into giving away your private information in exchange for something. If you ever received an email about a relative dying and leaving you an enormous amount of money just waiting there for you to collect it, you were targeted by phishing.
  • Ransomware: A special type of malware that restricts your access to your PC. In fact, it basically kidnaps your machine, demanding monetary payment. How many times have you seen that type of kidnapping on television?


Do not lose hope. Methods of prevention and protection do exist. Still, in the modern age, it is important to educate yourself as well as take care of your cyber security – even if it means just avoiding unwanted ads.

About the author


Yuliia Litvinchuk

Yuliia Litvinchuk is a content coordinator at with an unquenchable thirst for cybersecurity. You can often find her at her computer locating the latest information in the field. When not working, she can be spotted watching 80s and 90s anime and reading sci-fi comics.