The prevalence of cyber crime has skyrocketed over the past several years to include cyber espionage, malware and phishing schemes. In response, the cybersecurity market has also grown and is expected to reach $120.1 billion by 2017. This may seem like an excessive estimate, but many tech users are unaware of just how costly cyber crime can be. The FBI’s Most Wanted List for cyber criminals currently contains just five individuals, but each is responsible for consumer losses ranging from $350,000 to $100 million.
The United States loses $100 billion annually as a result of cyber crime, which targets over 556 million victims per year. Cyber crime targets range from individual citizens to massive organizations like the U.S. Navy, which receives 110,000 cyber attacks every hour. Businesses, especially those with fewer than 2,500 employees, have become popular targets. Current trends such as cloud computing, bring-your-own-device policies, and consumerization increase the risks for businesses.
As consumers expand their tech use to new outlets, cyber criminals follow them. Social media and mobile devices have opened many new opportunities for hackers to compromise the security of computer systems and networks. Criminals are opting to use social networks over email as their primary means of targeting victims, as social media has become the primary source of Internet activity for most people. Social networks, including sites such as Facebook and Pinterest, are primarily used by cyber criminals as mediums for implementing spamming and phishing techniques.
"Online criminals target social media because that's where the victims are," stated Symantec's 2013 Internet Security Threat report. About 10% of all social media users have received a cyber threat. More than 600,000 accounts are compromised every day on Facebook alone. People are more likely to share personal information like addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth on social networks. These facts are useful to hackers who want to figure out passwords or steal their victims' identities.
Social media users are also likely to click links posted by trusted friends, which criminals can use to their advantage. Like-jacking, which occurs when criminals post fake Facebook "like" buttons to webpages, is a popular method of cyber crime. Users who click the button don't "like" the page, but instead download malware.
SMS scams have increased among mobile users, who are especially vulnerable because their devices are directly connected to their cellphone bills. Cyber criminals can send expensive text messages without the user's knowledge. Mobile botnets described in a recent Symantec report used this tactic to generate $547,500 to $3,285,000 per year.
Although mobile and social threats have increased, desktop and laptop users should also pay close attention to their computer security. Apple users in particular should take caution, as Macs have become an attractive target for cyber crime as the company has gained more market share. An example of this can be seen in the 2013 Flashback Attack, during which cyber criminals took control of 600,000 Macs. It should be noted that just 2.5% of all threats in 2012 were targeted towards Macs, but this number is expected to grow as Apple continues to grow within the market.