Recently, Roger Grimes at InfoWorld published a fascinating article about how lucrative and safe it is for cybercriminals to commit identity theft on the Internet.
If you’re an ordinary criminal who likes to rob banks, you’re taking a big risk for a relatively minor reward.
The FBI reported that in 2010, U.S. bank robbers committed 5,628 bank jobs which netted $43 million. So the average bank robbery took in a little more than $7500. And 22% of the time, the criminals were caught and the money was returned.
Because the thieves usually used guns in the robberies, they faced mandatory jail time. So, overall, bank robberies are high risk/low reward.
Comparing Bank Robberies to Internet Crimes
In 2011, the FBI reported that 300,000 identity theft victims lost a combined $1.1 billion to Internet criminals. That’s an average of about $3,666 per victim, which is about half the rate the average bank robber makes per robbery.
But here’s the important detail: the typical Internet criminal commits literally thousands of these crimes and almost never gets caught. And those who do get caught hardly spend any time in jail.
According to the FBI, in 2010, nearly 304,000 Internet crime complaints resulted in 1420 cases and only six convictions. So for every 50,000 victims, one cybercriminal was convicted.
If you rob a bank, you will probably be caught 25% of the time. If you steal someone’s identity online, you might get caught .002% of the time.
FBI Warnings About WiFi
Indeed, even the FBI has issued warnings about privacy risks in wireless hotspots. Supervisory Special Agent Donna Peterson has told the FBI’s Cyber Division about the following risks:
“Connecting to an unsecure network can leave you vulnerable to attacks from hackers. How do hackers grab your personal data out of thin air? Agent Peterson said one of the most common types of attack is this: a bogus but legitimate-looking WiFi network with a strong signal is strategically set up in a known hotspot…and the hacker waits for nearby laptops to connect to it. At that point, your computer—and all your sensitive information, including user ID, passwords, credit card numbers, etc.—basically belongs to the hacker. The intruder can mine your computer for valuable data, direct you to phony webpages that look like ones you frequent, and record your every keystroke.”
The takeaway here is that law enforcement can do little to stop Internet criminals. It’s virtually impossible to make the Internet a safe place. It’s up to us to use the tools at our disposal to make it harder for Internet criminals to steal our information.
Using a personal VPN like PRIVATE WiFi is the best way to completely protect yourself from these kinds of attacks, whether you are simply emailing, using a credit card to make a financial transaction, or managing your online banking accounts.
Now more than ever, consumers need to encrypt all the data moving to and from their laptop — and that’s why a personal VPN matters so much when it comes to Internet safety.