Can we live without computers in the modern world? Look around you and try to count the ways we depend on computer technology to make our lives easier. Huge numbers of people exchange information on one type of social media or another, many of us do our shopping through the computer, and an ever-growing number use computers to pay the bills and organise their financial lives.
The cyber criminals are having what in English we call ‘a field day’; it seems they can get easy access to personal information, because apparently people are still not very aware of the risks they are running. If you give away too much personal information on Facebook or other social networks, for example, you are at risk. The same is true if you make a bank transfer via the internet: every time you make an online purchase and are asked for your credit card details, you must be extremely careful. Many sites state that they are ‘risk-free’. But is there any such thing?
More and more cases of identity theft, fraud and attacks on information systems are reported every day. Just recently, the National Health Service in England was the target of a devastating cyber-attack, which resulted in operations being cancelled, ambulances diverted and documents such as patient records made unavailable across the whole country. Unfortunately, this is just one in dozens of such attacks reported this year. In many cases, vulnerable people receive telephone calls claiming to come from their bank and are told – very urgently! – to transfer funds in order to protect them. What happens? Their money disappears. They are victims of cybercrime.
Losing your life savings as a result of cybercrime is indeed terrible, and only matched by another, more insidious and evil form of cybercrime, that is, online posting of illegal material, such as child pornography, incitement to racial hatred and terrorist propaganda. Not to mention online bullying of school students, which has led in many cases to depression, breakdowns and even suicide.
The list is endless, and whether they are criminal acts that can be prosecuted by the law or are what we might call moral crimes, such as bullying, they are all to be condemned. We should all try to protect ourselves as best we can against them. The problem, especially as regards attacks on networks, is that they cross borders silently and secretly, and are formidably difficult to trace.