Published On: Mon, Apr 8th, 2019

When dealing with cybercrime, the micro matters more than the macro

For a while now, theories that interpret reality teach us that to think in the macro will help us to understand the sum of our problems and, by doing this, we can find the best ways of dealing with them, no matter whether the problem is global or private. This rationale is still quite valid, when we want to see the whole forest. However, in today’s digital world, which dominates all of our lives, this rationale is relative and cannot be fully applied, because, as the facts show, this can generate a distorted result. Especially when dealing with crimes over the worldwide network of computers, since what criminals are really after is the trees, not the forest.

As an investigator, I began to take note of the biggest horrors that we have witnessed over the last 20 years since the digital age began, and what I’ve noticed is that they always come together through many small actions, which go unnoticed by our public security. For example, most terrorist attacks are planned online in chat rooms and executed in simple yet lethal ways, causing thousands of deaths and suffering for families and countries. School massacres are designed in the same way, some are made public before they even happen.

You could say that the digital age empowered everyone, especially criminals, who, using a speed only made possible over the internet, are able to reach millions of victims with a simple click of a button or with a fake news account created on social media. Also, they are able to share techniques they just learned with their online criminal groups. To summarize, these aggressors benefit from the brutally asymmetric nature of technology, which, by finding just a small crack in the armor of the virtual users, allows them to carry out their crimes.

While the government is involved in combating large scale cyber-attacks, armies of hackers (many created by non-democratic governments and a legion of criminal organizations like the mafia and Camorra) act furtively and extremely efficiently to extract billions of dollars without even being bothered and with zero risk. Aside from the type of crime, the act in itself is always the same- to obtain advantages: financial, personal, power, or other things in the most covert way possible and generally leaving the victim no chance to react.

Countries are suffering thousands of these attacks and they don’t even notice it, since the victims are “anonymous individuals”. It would be like a giant standing guard at your door so that no one could steal your food, but what he doesn’t notice is the millions of ants sneaking under his feet to steal your food bit by bit.

This is the way I view how criminal organizations act in this day and age – at the micro level since acting at the macro level draws too much attention and they could be caught. For example, invading a bank and transferring millions of dollars is very dangerous for these gangs. The alarm is set off immediately and all the power of the state will be on the heels of this cybercrime’s perpetrators. So instead, these thieves prefer to attack millions of unprepared users, using scam techniques developed for the perfect victims. Zero risk! The crime is so perfect that generally the victims of these scammers are ridiculed and called dummies for having fallen into a trap “so obvious”.

The world is full of examples like this. According to the site, https://www.scamwatch.gov.au, created by the Australian government, the official data shows that in 2018 alone losses due to virtual love scams amounted to $24,648,024.00, with 3,981 victims being attacked, yet only 30.8% of the financial losses were reported. This is only one case out of hundreds that occur in any given moment throughout the world. There are innumerable other types of scams, shown on the American site  https://www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds.  The most common are: Equifax data violation; phone scams, charities, bank or government subsidiaries; ticket scams; lottery or fraudulent drawings; pyramid schemes; investment frauds, posing as Census workers, among others.

These “invisible scams” in the micro world of citizens is what sustains world crime. While victims suffer the losses, to tell the truth, it is all of society that is being punished, because it creates a waterfall effect. Victims will stop buying goods, food, clothes, devices, and much more. In other words, the entire market loses because of this. And we are talking about millions of people, those for which the government doesn’t provide the minimum of security or protection.

That is why I’d like to empathize in this article that public policies that combat cybercrime need to be geared towards, in a massive way, the citizen, the micro, not the macro. Governments and other institutions that direct people’s lives are obligated to create safeguards that protect citizens at the base. The union is an important step in lowering the number of these criminal acts. In the same way that they act on the micro, we need to fight them at the micro level as well, effectively protecting people.

The defense against these crimes, ultimately, is information. If companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Apple, Microsoft, and many others, which dominate this universe of our time, united to create tough campaigns against scammers, I am certain we could reduce these types of fraud by 80%. Because information and well-informed citizens is the best weapon against virtual crimes.

I always participate in news reports for cases that I managed. Hundreds of people contact me on my social media accounts to say that they were able to identify scammers thanks to reporting broadcast on TV, or in newspapers or magazines. Today, I have resolved more than 3,500 cases as a cybercrime expert and I have published 4 books on the subject. With this experience, I can say without a doubt that the more we let these criminal organizations act invisibly and freely, the more we are becoming a more and more fragile and sick society.

Our interconnected world is becoming ever more dangerous and, the more we incorporate technologies into our daily virtual lives, the more vulnerable we become. It’s proven that crime is gaining from the exponential nature of technology. It’s been a while since the internet lost its innocence. It seems like the world, although terrified, still hasn’t understood clearly the extent and profundity of this black hole without a bottom.

About the Author

- Wanderson Castilho is the president and visionary of ENETSEC. He holds a bachelors in Physics from the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR). Author of the books "Manual of A Virtual Detective" (2009), "Deception, a Multifaced Issue" (2011), "Do you know what your kids are doing on the internet?" (2014), and "100 Critical Facts about the World's Cybercrime”(2018). Representative member from South and Central America on the Michigan Collegiate Cyber Defense Network’s Industry and Academic Advisory Board, at the University of Michigan, USA, which promotes network security competitions with the objective of guaranteeing competitiveness among educational institutions that teach professionals in the field of Information Technology. Consulting member on the Commission for Electronic Rights and High Tech Crimes from OAB, SP, Brazil. Teacher at the Superior School for Police of the State of Paraná in the training course for chief Police about Cybercrimes in 2016. Certifications: Digital Forensic Analyst Certification from Paraben and Access Data, Washington, USA FACS (Face Action Code System), a method developed by Paul Edman, Berkeley, San Francisco, CA, USA Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation (LSI), Dr. Avinoam Sapir, Israel Scientific Content Analysis (SCAN), Dr. Avinoam Sapir, Israel Completed a course on the Scientific Method for Interrogation, Ontario, Canada

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