Transitioning Crime from Digital to Physical Realm

Cyber Space and the Criminal Mind by Joseph Pacamarra MVP Microsoft Enterprise Security

Many nitizens today thinks they are safe in the hands of their overzealous and overpriced security tools and protections regiments while they venture in connected world enjoying its vast potentials, and most don’t expect that criminals are lurking with them in the same social networking sites, using the same technology as they have and waiting for that opportune moment to exploit and do harm to their next victim.

We all know that once a society evolves and matures and so as its recesses and scums, lately there had been rise of incidents and some undocumented reports of crimes that started with a simple “hi and hello” over mobile chat applications, or an a e-mail and social network message sent by criminals masked and sugar coated with flowery words and a pleasing looks on the other end of the web cam or so who is looking at you over the cctv camera installed at the corner of your streets or in your offices which can lead up as a gruesome event. Yes, some crooks and thugs and even and entire criminal organization has already upgraded and has joined the online bandwagon by expanding its criminal franchise into the Cyberspace to adapt with changing needs and behavior of their potential victims varying from their buying power to how they lives and go about their day to day activities online.


But before that, let’s take a peek first in the criminal mind. Did you know that most successful criminals are very particular with details and that they have an overly developed sense of order? And that Money, Revenge, Prestige and Power are just some of the key motivation which fuels the act of committing the most common to the most heinous of criminal activities. With likes of Murder, Rape, Kidnapping, Drugs and illegal gun running, Theft and Smuggling and many more.

Looking closer in the realm of the criminal mind, most of the successful criminal acts that transitioned from cyber space to the physical world reaches personal level e.g. - Home Invasion clearly describe as: an illegal, usually forceful or deceitful entry to an occupied, private dwelling with a violent intent to commit a crime against the occupants such as Property & Identity Theft, Sexual Assault, Murder and at some point Kidnapping.

Here’s a simple overview of a home invasion:
1. Research ( believe me they do )
2. Collect and Identify potential targets
3. Identify the asset of the target
4. Attack
5. Cover up their tracks

Maybe you’re asking now, how do you reconcile such example of crime to your activities over the cyberspace? Uncanny as it may sound but maybe another a list question is best suited to answer that questions.

Here are some question to gauge how we conduct yourself in the Cyberspace:
1. Are you a member of one of the many social network hubs (Facebook, twitter and many more)?
2. Who are your real friends and your social media friends?
3. What topics you usually discuss with your online friends?
4. Do you buy things or do business transaction online?
5. Do you pay your bills online? 6. How and where do you store data in your gadgets?
7. Is you applications patched and updated?
8. Who among your family member have an access to smart phone, tablet personal computer or a notebook computer which is connected to the internet?
9. Do you have ample Security Protection Applications and tools? Is it updated?
10. Are you fond of Card Payment? Where do you swipe it the last time?
11. How often and how easily do you disclose personal information such as full name, address, age and phone number over the internet?
12. Where and to whom did you last disclosed those information?

And if more follow on questions found itself while you’re reading this article, Like How do they do it? Unpleasant as it may sound but they are just like you, but with a bigger agenda and a motive which is either to bring harm to you and your love ones or rob you of your hard earned wealth or so your life’s savings.

Those gauge above you can help you check your sense of security in the internet and somehow you already have an idea if you are a victim waiting to happen or are you safe.

Now how do thugs, crooks and professional criminals and organization use the Internet/Cyber Space to pick and attack their potential victims?

6 Point System of a Crime:
1. ISOLATE Like any other person criminals joins groups in the social network tiers collects ample amount of “unknowing friends” filters and identify potential victims depending on the agenda they have at play varying from theft to urges of control. Then slowly create a persona and atmosphere of trust by lavishing it with topics varying from religion, hobbies, menu, music, games and even personal challenges as a talking points to earn that most priced ticket of any crime the infamous “trust”.


With the use of customized malware and social engineering every crumbs of data collected and processed they can get. Now the question follows how did they possibly have a picture, billing statements which attracted them to you?

a. They lured the user to click on a part of a tainted e-mail or picture, or possibly openly left a USB or SD memory stick out in the open that when is opened can download independently malicious files like Trojans or Backdoors. That can allow unauthorized remote access to an unknowing victim’s computer. b. They posed as an innocent girl or a boy or someone with delightful smile in the social networking hub to whom you had a brief conversation then suddenly they lifted pictures of you, your family, good looking daughters, of your home, roof color, nearby vicinity with landmarks. c. The use of compromised or unsecured connection and computers to pay your bills or worst institution you’re paying your bills has were hacked and is leaking information. d. Misplaced or Stolen unsecured Mobile Phones, Notebook and Tablet PC’s those gadgets either have access or have data stored and is free for picking.

3. IDENTIFIED ASSETS From the data collected like chat transcripts, phished information, live feed access via compromised webcam, phone cam and cctv feed, including pictures and billing statement a crook or a thug can already identify if you have in your possession something that is of great value or would it benefit them like car models, jewelry, corporate documents, e-mails list, a pretty face and that include persons behavior just by interconnecting all the data, pictures and worst far worst those billing statement gives them the idea of your financial capacity.

4. SCHEDULES Via your stolen or misplaced gadget and some on social network groups people just loves to show where they are and what they are about to do in their trips or well while they are just planning. Worst some people shows off their plane tickets and where they are about stay like hotels and resorts. And sometimes it can be picked up from a simple chit chat using the proper question and you can already see the habits and routines, from exercise to work routes, favorite foods which would definitely benefit any thug or crook to do set their bad plans in motion.

5. LOCATIONS Again in social networking groups people use some application where they are actually located so accurate sometimes they post their own rooms and actual address, and some well it can be discerned on the picture taken real time and posted in their own social media pages. Whether you’re in a hotel, at a beach, at home, on route home, jogging at a park or shopping indicating your location would definitely leave you vulnerable to all who wish to do you harm.

6. SIZING Most often people would show, tag their friends and companions or relatives via an innocent picture or so a regular conversation identifying your built, height, behavior, companions and means of protection. E.g. on a trip some would tag everyone with them on the trip and post a remark or a picture almost real time while on a trip or saying “Am lonely just me and my Dog at home”. Some just don’t have an idea that they are inviting crime themselves the moment they post those over the internet. Electric and Water bill has been known to be used to gauge the fluctuation of individuals at a certain home or lodging.

FINALITY: THE ACT OF HOME INVASION After all 6 aspect are satisfied well it would be just like a walk in the park for anyone who wish to do harm and steal something to anyone.

Now the question that lingers is how could you possibly protect yourself?
1. The less information you give the safer you are.
2. Keep chat and conversation off the personal information, family, money, emotional level with anyone you just met over the internet and social network sites, no matter how educated, good looking or angelic their voice the other party has.
3. Never try to meet them in person alone!!!
4. Educate your family member, most certainly the weakest point is the user like kids, teenagers and the not so techy members of the family and the workforce.
5. Invest on a decent security protection be it in your phone or personal computer (e.g Windows Firewall and Security product like Microsoft Security Essential/Windows Defender ) Microsoft Offers both for Home and business use who better knows to protect the software than the very creator of it.
6. Avoid activating your GPS and using Applications that pinpoints your actual location.
7. Avoid uploading pictures of your trip, visits or routine in real-time basis.
8. Don’t commit to online payment on unsecured sites, connections and PC rental kiosk or Cyber Café’s and use only proven browser who can offer secure transaction like that of Internet Explorer and its many secure features.
9. Use Data Encryption Technology like that of Bitlocker on your PC hardrive and your mobile phone data storages in so if case of a theft all data within will remain secured to the point useless to whomsoever inherited your stolen phones and PC’s.
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