Cybercrime – Crime on the Internet
Cybercrime – official statistics show a significant increase in crimes that can be classified as cybercrime. But what exactly is cybercrime? What methods do the fraudsters use? How can you protect yourself from cyber attacks? This article describes the phenomenon of cybercrime.
This guide is aimed at both those affected by cybercrime and those who want to know exactly what threats you can protect yourself from online.
Table of contents
- What is cybercrime?
- What types of cybercrime are there?
- How you can protect yourself from cybercrime
- What to do in case of cybercrime
- Your rights as a cybercrime victim
Digital networking brings many advantages in private life as well as in everyday work, but still offers cyber criminals a multitude of attack surfaces. Our lawyers are therefore at your disposal for questions and assistance in IT law and in cases of Internet fraud.
What is cybercrime?
Cybercrime definition – Basically, cybercrime is any criminal offence committed with the help of information and communication technologies. Cybercrime is different from computer crime. In the latter case, the computer is usually used as a weapon even if there is no Internet access.
Internet crime or cybercrime includes all crimes that take place on the internet or use the internet in some way.
It takes place with the help of computers, networks or hardware devices. The computer or mobile phone serves as the access point or target of the crime. There are many different types of cybercrime, including internet fraud, data espionage, identity theft, copyright infringement and cyberterrorism.
In Germany, fraud offences make up the majority (about 80 %), with merchandise credit fraud leading the way, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).
In addition, there is so-called ICT crime. Crime in connection with information and communication technologies. Here, phishing is in the foreground.
- Computer fraud
- Fraud with access rights to communication services
- Falsification of evidence data
- Deception in legal transactions with data processing as well as
- Data manipulation and computer sabotage…
… are summarised by the BKA under the term computer fraud. In the Criminal Code, the so-called “computer fraud” is regulated in § 263a. The penalty ranges from a fine to imprisonment of up to five years. Tactics and procedures of the so-called cyberwar (“net war”) are in flux.
It is not always obvious whether an attack on the internet in an individual case serves criminal or military or political purposes. Currently widespread manifestations of computer crime are characterised by the infection and manipulation of computer systems with malware:
- Personal data and access authorisations of the user are tapped and misused. This is also referred to as identity theft.
- The user’s data and files are encrypted with so-called ransomware in order to extort a “ransom”.
- Botnets are interconnected to enable further criminal acts.
Cyber attacks are getting better and better, the “malware business”, i.e. malicious software, is becoming more and more sophisticated.
Cybercrime cases: statistics
In 2020, the Federal Criminal Police Office recorded 320,323 offences in Germany in which the internet was the means of committing the crime. Of all offences in the area of property and forgery offences, 75.8 percent were committed with the internet as the means of offence. Of these, 73.1 percent were Internet fraud offences alone.
One problem is that many people are not aware of the risks.
The problem is exacerbated by the negligent handling of data in so-called participatory internet apps, especially in the increasingly popular social networks. Users often carelessly provide extensive biographical data in their online user profiles. Such data, in turn, is widely available.
The Report on the State of IT Security in Germany 2020, published by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), describes the current situation as tense. In particular, the publication warns against:
- mass attacks with malicious programs on companies, offices, authorities, institutional facilities and private individuals.
- targeted cyber attacks with malicious software.
- Fraud schemes in connection with the special economic and labour situation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Deliberate “play” with emotionality, existential fears, worries as well as the challenge of understanding and correctly implementing official requirements. Among them:
- alleged emergency aid for companies
- Payments for short-time work
- false bank employees, etc.
What types of cybercrime are there?
The spectrum of illegal activities and ways of committing crimes on or via the internet is broad. It ranges from “phishing” of personal access data to trafficking in weapons and narcotics to network intrusions, DDoS attacks and the distribution of malware.
All this happens not only on the “visible” internet, but also in the forums of the “underground economy”, in the DeepWeb and on the Darknet. Cyberbullying, cyberterrorism and incitement of the people are only a few examples of the many crimes that are summarised under the term cybercrime.
Other examples are internet fraud, data spying, sharing child pornography. Cybercrime according to the definition of the Federal Criminal Police Office in the narrower sense also includes the following offences:
- Computer fraud
- Spying on and interception of data
- Deception in legal transactions involving data processing
- Data alteration
- Computer sabotage
- Fraud with access authorisations to communication services (identity theft)
- Falsification of data
Identity theft – Phishing
Digital identity includes all types of accounts and payment-related information of an internet user, such as access data in the areas of
- Cloud computing,
- Credit card data information,
- Payment addresses,
- Communication, e-mail and messenger services,
- E-commerce, online banking, online brokerage, portals of all kinds,
- Online access to internal company technical resources.
Digital crooks try to get hold of this information, for example by “phishing”, in order to subsequently sell it for profit or use it to commit further crimes.
Phishing” refers to all attempts to obtain the personal information of an Internet user, e.g. through fake websites, messages or short messages, and after appropriating this data to commit fraud with it.
Cybercrime Malicious software
For phishing, cyber criminals typically use malicious programmes (malware). Every day, new malware programmes are created that aim to bypass protection points and exploit security vulnerabilities.
- Cybercrime Malware spreads by downloading infected attachments, which are usually sent as part of messages that arouse interest.
- Cybercriminals place prepared pages on the Internet; the malware is downloaded when such a page is called up and installed on the user’s computer.
- Cyber criminals use personally addressed phishing or infection emails to contact specific individuals in order to obtain information or damage the victim’s PC.
- Distribution takes place via social networks, where infected attachments and corresponding links are shared.
Due to the rapid increase in the use of smartphones around the world, cybercriminals are also increasingly spreading malware specifically designed for mobile phones, e.g. to bypass the TAN procedure for online banking.
Similar to PCs, smartphones are infiltrated by downloading malicious apps when calling up “infected” connections and websites or by infiltrating cybercrime applications. Fraudulent brokers are currently increasingly using these techniques.
Data theft through social engineering
The most vulnerable link in the security chain is usually the user himself. Cybercriminals are aware of this. Accordingly, they tempt their victims through skilful mental control to engage in activities that jeopardise the security of their information.
They abuse human tendencies such as interest or fear to obtain information or infect computers. In the process, the potential victims are specifically selected, e.g. on the basis of data shared in social networks. Examples of social engineering attacks are:
- The sending of personal and confidence-inspiring emails with the request to disclose confidential information for specific reasons. This can happen, for example, for the supposed verification of an online banking account.
- Offering telephone support to solve a fictitious computer problem. If victims follow the steps described by the perpetrator on the computer or network, a wide range of malware can be installed.
- Creating a duplicate of a current user account on social networks. This involves sending confidence-inspiring messages containing an email address or mobile phone number to the user’s contacts. When the email address or phone number is clicked, malicious code is uploaded to the corresponding device.
- The targeted sending of emails with dangerous attachments to people who have previously been identified as a suitable target, e.g. through information from social media.
Digital blackmail – cybercrime
In digital extortion, cybercriminals often use so-called ransomware. Cryptographic methods are used on compromised systems to encrypt data and documents to which the owner then no longer has access.
A ransom is demanded to unlock access. Corresponding malware or illegal “services” that can be used for such cyber extortion can be bought in dark economy forums. This ensures that no specific IT knowledge is required to carry out digital blackmail.
Meanwhile, there are ransomware versions that not only encrypt local files but also target network directories. Such attacks mainly apply to companies that use specific network directories. In digital extortion, there is a trend to make payment anonymously via digital currencies, mostly focusing on Bitcoin.
DDoS attacks – cybercrime attacks and remote access to PCs
So-called botnets are created when a large number of computer systems, often several thousand, are infected with malicious code and connected via command-and-control servers to be used by criminals to carry out certain actions.
These botnets are often used for targeted attacks on the availability of certain websites, so-called DDoS attacks (distributed denial of service), or for sending spam mails en masse. Botnets and their capabilities are an essential part of cybercriminals’ networks and are now sold as a product in dark economy forums.
Even less IT-savvy perpetrators hire botnets and successfully carry out cyberattacks at low cost.
The computer is damaged by the installation of malware on the device.
Such “viruses” can enter the device through various means, e.g. by opening e-mail attachments, through a “drive-by infection” when visiting compromised websites, or by uploading unverified files, such as on Usenet and file-sharing/P2P (peer-to-peer) networks, where the malware is usually disguised as a video or sound file.
In addition, social networks are increasingly used for the exchange of apps. The danger here lies in messages with compromised attachments sent by supposed acquaintances or relatives to unsuspecting network users. If you open such attachments or allow such connections in good conscience, your device can become infected.
Fraudulent emails make false promises, such as the promise of quick money or easy ways to get rich. At the beginning, you have to send the recipient a small amount of money. The real aim of the scam is to cheat people out of their money.
False stories, similar to newspaper hoaxes, are spread on the internet as hoaxes. Petitions against allegedly scandalous business practices (e.g. “selling bonsai kittens”), requests for bone marrow donations for fictitious persons and financial advice are some examples.
Fraudulent virus and worm warnings and instructions for action, if followed by the end user, can cause significant problems in the computer system. These include destruction of system files and corruption of other data.
Surface Web & Dark Web
It is important to remember that the term ‘crime scene’ in cybercrime does not refer to a specific physical location. Rather, it refers to the speed and scale at which crimes can be committed over the internet. Some parts of the internet are hidden from some users.
On the Surface Web, the visible web, search engines like Google cover the places that are clearly visible.
The Deep Web and the Dark Web are two parts of the “invisible” Internet where most criminal activity takes place.
The Deep Web consists largely of databases and websites and is not included in search engine results. There are a number of examples of this, e.g. websites that can only be viewed by certain people due to access restrictions (e.g. intranet websites) or proof of identity.
Search engines cannot find anything in them. All database and file formats that are too complicated to be indexed also fall into this category. The dark web is rather a network in which users link to each other manually. Since it is difficult to get in from the outside, this creates the necessary framework for exclusivity.
Most of the time, new users have to be invited by an existing participant. Compared to the visible part of the internet, this provides an anonymity and exclusivity that you can’t get anywhere else. As a result, cybercrime is very common in this area.
Cybercrime – attacks on the German economy
Cybercriminals from all over the world are targeting German companies. The goal of these groups is data theft or digital blackmail. For example, through threats or DDoS attacks on German companies. This applies to medium-sized companies as well as large global corporations.
Unspecific, broad-based attacks such as ransomware, on the other hand, endanger the IT infrastructures of companies of all sizes.
It is not only technological vulnerabilities that enable cyber criminals to successfully attack companies. Employees are also an important gateway. They often do not act maliciously, but allow attacks through carelessness or a misunderstanding of the situation.
Building or strengthening technical and social security awareness in the company is therefore extremely important to protect employees from frauds such as phishing and social engineering. The digital association Bitkom recently published the results of its survey, in which a total of 1,000 companies from a wide range of industries took part.
The survey shows the precarious situation of German companies and frightening figures in the area of cybercrime.
- Nine out of ten companies have become victims of data theft, corporate espionage and sabotage actions in connection with ransomware.
- Crimes using the internet as a means of crime – extortion, coercion, system and business failures – more than 4 times higher than in 2018 and 2019.
- The total damage to the economy in Germany in 2020/21 is around 223 billion euros.
- Most frequent fraud scheme in this context: the disruption of business operations through attacks with malware and associated blackmail.
- Furthermore, theft of data of customers, business partners, suppliers and sensitive internal company information.
- Special situation: Corona pandemic and increasing number of employees working in home offices – without significant IT security measures. Increasing cyber attacks through phishing emails, fraudulent calls and hacking.
How you can protect yourself from cybercrime
You are now aware of the dangers posed by cybercrime. So how can you better protect yourself from it? Here are some easy-to-follow pieces of advice:
1. Use antivirus software and keep it up to date
Antivirus software scans your device for threats and removes them before they cause a problem. This measure protects your device and data from cybercrime and gives you peace of mind. If you use antivirus software, make sure you keep it up to date to ensure the best possible protection at all times.
2. If you are unsure whether to give out personal information, don’t do it
Never give out confidential information over the phone or by email until you are satisfied that the line or recipient is secure and trustworthy. Also, speak personally in advance with the person requesting the data from you.
3. Use strong passwords against cybercrime
Make sure you use strong passwords that cannot be guessed or traced. It is even better to use a password generator to randomly create strong passwords and store them securely at the same time.
4. Never open email attachments from spammers
Email attachments are a common route for ransomware or other forms of cybercrime. Therefore, never open an attachment from an unknown source to prevent infecting your device. Particularly popular are supposed messages from banks and payment service providers to protect your account. Seek a personal conversation with your contact person if you are unsure.
5. Maintain the latest versions of software and operating system
By regularly updating your programmes and operating system, you will get the latest security updates to keep your device safe.
6. Don’t click on links in spam newsletters or on untrusted websites
Clicking on links in spam emails, in tweets or on anonymous sites also puts you at risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime. Avoid such clicks to ensure your online protection.
7. If something appears to be illegal, contact the organisation immediately
Hang up if someone poses as an employee of a well-known company (e.g. your bank) and asks for your personal details during a phone call. Instead, call back the company in question, dialling the phone number given on the official website. This way you ensure that you are not talking to a cybercriminal.
8. Be vigilant about your bank account balance
Always keep an eye on your bank account and contact your bank immediately if you come across any untraceable transactions. If there really is a theft, the bank will detect it.
Our advice is intended to protect you from becoming a victim of cybercrime. In addition, it is important to react as quickly as possible if you have nevertheless become a target of cybercriminals.
What to do about cybercrime?
While official police crime figures indicate an increase in cybercrime incidents, they do not accurately reflect the results of investigations into the phenomenon. When approaching cybercrime from a police perspective, one must assume a very large number of unreported cases.
This means that probably only a limited percentage of crimes are identified or recognised by the police and law enforcement agencies.
- Where can I report cybercrime? In case of immediate danger, dial 110! The police will do everything they can to protect you.
- If you are technically savvy, you can secure the evidence, e.g. by printing it out or saving it as a screenshot. If you are not able to do this yourself, ask someone to secure the evidence for you.
- You can file a criminal complaint in case of cybercrime at any police station.
- When you file your complaint, hand over all the facts to the authority. This is important for queries and a complete follow-up.
- Existing data content – such as emails, chat logs in messenger systems, multimedia images or recordings and so on – is valuable information for the law enforcement authorities.
Report and report cybercrime
The internet and social media have profoundly influenced our daily actions and communications. No one – professionally or privately – wants to do without the benefits of modern information and communication technologies.
However, criminals have found a new field of activity and new ways to commit crimes.
The security authorities must have a clear and up-to-date picture of the situation, the perpetrator structures and the offences in order to be able to successfully combat crimes via the Internet. This can be done by filing a criminal complaint and providing as much information as possible to the police.
In other words: If you have become a victim of an Internet crime, file a complaint! Feel free to contact our law firm – we will advise you on the topic of filing a criminal complaint for fraud. Preventive measures and knowledge of the dangers can help you in many situations not to become a victim of a crime on the Internet.
Your rights as a cybercrime victim
Depending on the type of cybercrime committed, you may be entitled to different protective measures and legal procedures.
- It is often beneficial to seek legal advice. A lawyer represents your rights in court and can be present at your hearing in court or with the prosecution. In addition, the victims’ organisation WEISSER RING offers support to victims of crime during the initial interview with a public prosecutor.
- The aftermath of a crime can also be problematic. Depending on the circumstances, financial or psychological impairments, or even both, will affect your future life to a greater or lesser extent.
- In certain cases, you can ask the court to appoint your own “victim advocate”. The victim advocate will then advocate on your behalf in disciplinary proceedings and in court. If the court grants your request, the victim advocate will provide their services at no cost to you.
- You may also be entitled to psychosocial process support.
- Upon application, they can act as “joint plaintiff” in the criminal proceedings, if applicable. This expands your options. You can find out more about participating in court hearings as a joint plaintiff when you consult your lawyer.
- If you have legal expenses insurance against cybercrime, check with the provider whether the costs can be covered. If you do not have legal expenses insurance, check the details of how costs will be covered in the future.
- There are victim support organisations that will help and support you before and after the (criminal) trial.
- If you have been a victim of cybercrime, you have access to the same comprehensive support and rehabilitation services as victims of other crimes.
- In addition, do not be afraid to seek medical treatment to deal with what you have experienced.
The lawyers at Herfurtner Law Firm are available for a free initial consultation in IT law and all cybercrime cases.
Cybercrime Police Bavaria – renewed investigation success in connection with online trading: they allegedly defrauded thousands of German-speaking investors. Now five suspects have been arrested in Bulgaria and numerous properties have been searched.
Together with Bulgarian law enforcement authorities, the Cybercrime Central Office Bavaria and the Criminal Investigation Department Bamberg, flanked by the BKA, were able to take action against a group of alleged investment fraudsters operating worldwide.
An international group of perpetrators was responsible for damage amounting to millions. Thus, investors from several European countries who wanted to increase their capital through online trading were among the victims.
Cybercrime police Bavaria: third success
In their press release of 16 March 2021, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Bamberg and the Upper Franconia Police Headquarters announced that several thousand investors in Germany alone had fallen victim to the machinations of the alleged group of perpetrators.
With the measures taken against internet fraud, the investigators are following up on the so-called “Action Days” in April and December 2020. At that time, suspects from Serbia, Bulgaria and Ukraine were arrested and charged with large-scale fraud.
The Central Office for Cybercrime Bavaria, in cooperation with the investigative commission of the Bamberg Criminal Investigation Department, had already obtained arrest warrants for the arrested suspects on the grounds of commercial and gang-related fraud prior to the raid.
Accordingly, the arrest was based on the German search measures. The nationalities of the suspects are given by the authorities as Bulgaria, Montenegro and the Czech Republic. In addition to the arrests, search warrants were executed in Sofia and a large amount of evidence was seized.
Furthermore, search warrants were also executed in Berlin by the Bamberg criminal investigation department.
Investment fraud with trading platforms: This is how the perpetrators proceeded
Cybercrime Police Bavaria – a current topic. The focus of the “Action Day” on 16 March 2021 was on a group of perpetrators who are said to have been responsible for serious financial losses to private investors throughout Europe in recent years. The investment fraud followed a strict pattern.
Consequently, the group had operated a number of online trading platforms, which were accessible on different domains.
These professionally designed websites gave the impression of operating trading platforms for trading with financial instruments such as cryptocurrencies, contracts for difference (CFD trading) or currency pairs (forex trading).
Accordingly, the investor had gained the impression that he was able to operate a trading platform and manage a trading account. In fact, however, the money paid in by customers had never been invested.
Furthermore, there had been neither repayments nor profit distributions. In addition, allegedly unsuccessful trades had led to massive losses, which in some cases had gone as far as total loss.
Which investors are now affected?
According to the Bamberg Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Upper Franconia Police Headquarters, the current crime phenomenon can be attributed to international cybercrime. In Germany alone, several thousand investors are affected, in addition to other victims in many European countries.
The exact number of victims of fraud could not be determined, as many investors attributed their losses to the investment risk they knew about in advance. The investigating authorities also announced which platforms used for investment fraud had been in the focus in the context of the current search success.
For the period from 2018 to April 2020, the focus was primarily on these providers:
- Trade Capital
- Nobel Trade
Cybercrime Police Bavaria: success of international cooperation
The successes in the fight against cybertrading fraud were due to the close and committed cooperation with foreign investigating authorities. First and foremost, the Bulgarian Specialised Prosecutor’s Office in Sofia and the General Prosecutor’s Office in Kiev should be mentioned.
The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), based in Wiesbaden, had also played a major role in the success of the investigation. The BKA played an important role as an interface for the rapid exchange of information across national borders.
Victims of cybercrime – help from a lawyer
Depending on the type of cybercrime committed, you can assert a number of claims.
Involving legal counsel
is advantageous in very many cases. You can be sure that he will be present at any questioning by the court or the public prosecutor’s office, as he will represent your interests in court. If you have legal expenses insurance, you should find out to what extent the legal costs or lawyer’s fees are covered by your insurance.
Under certain circumstances, you can apply to the court for a “victim advocate” to be appointed for you. In criminal proceedings and in court, the victim advocate will represent your interests. The work of the victim advocate is free of charge for you if the court agrees to your request.
You can appear in court as a joint plaintiff if you wish. This strengthens your legal rights. Depending on your circumstances, you may also be entitled to psychosocial support during the proceedings. To support victims of violence, the WEISSER RING offers a counselling cheque for an initial consultation with a lawyer.
Victim support groups are at your side throughout the criminal proceedings and beyond. They also support you in all other areas of your life.
If you have invested in or made payments to one of the companies on this list, our lawyers will be at your disposal at short notice.