The way people live and their habits are guided by the increased dependence on the internet technologies in all parts of the world. The day to day activities such as education, marketing, communication, and trading is done with the help of innovative web-based online systems and applications. The use of these applications, however, provides a loophole that is continuously abused by attackers. The loopholes can be exploited through Hacking, Phishing, Virus dissemination, Web jacking, Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud, Logic bombs, Denial-of-Service attack, Email bombing and spamming, Software Piracy, Data diddling, Cyberstalking, cyberbullying, salami slicing attack, child pornography and internet fraud.
The Details of the Cyber Crime
Attackers perpetrate the malicious use of the internet and the sophisticated information technology for Cyber-warfare, Cyberterrorism, and Hacktivism for social or financial gain on the part of the attacker. The least expected individual can commit Cyber-crimes under a digitized mask with the aim of achieving a specific intent.
In 2016 a massive data breach at the IRS was reported. The violation involved the stealing of sensitive information and social security numbers from IRS web servers. According to CBS NEWS, (2016), the total number of social security numbers stolen amounts to not less than 70,000. This number had been escalating from May 2015 where the total social security data lost was of 114,000 user accounts to 334,000 three months later (CBS NEWS, 2016)."Get Transcript" program which allows users to check their taxation history. The hackers manipulated this program. This program which began in 2004 gives taxpayers the ability to request tax information and other postal services. The hackers also used personal information they had gathered from taxpayers using the tax payer's online sources such as linked bank accounts. The data gathered facilitated the hackers' activities by enabling them to answer personal questions about the taxpayer on "Get Transcript" forms (Dinan, 2017).
According to Dinan, (2017), potential culprits identified for the crimes entails the Approved tax preparers of the IRS. The audit of online trust alliance found that almost half of companies approved by IRS to provide customer security failed to do so. Additionally, the IRS is also faced with scrutiny as several audits blame the lost data to lack of due diligence by the organization. The organizations are believed to have failed in offering protection to the taxpayers by failure to assess various security threats such management of their database controls and hiring an ex-convict among many others (McCoy, 2016). The latter is a show of failure to screen for any discrepancies among the workers of IRS despite their access to information of all taxpayers in the United States. According to the organizations TIGTA, some of the obsolete equipment's and outdated systems and software update at the IRS as a result of budget cuts played a significant role in causing outages that exposes the taxpayers' information to many security treats (Claburn, 2018).
Burden Caused by the Cyber-Crime
The impact of cyber-crimes ranges from social to economic, both from a personal and group level. Victims are left vulnerable feeling anguish, being cheated and full of self-blame and regret for being attacked. Personal information was stolen also compromises with the security, privacy and status of most victims. Additionally, cyber-crimes financial loss is extremely high ranging from the quantified loss of cash to non-quantified losses such as business opportunities, productivity and client base.
The RIS breach possesses a significant threat to the lives of American citizens. Financial data that can be used to wipe clean bank accounts of taxpayers is made available at the hands of cyber terrorists. The stolen social security details can also help in perpetrating social evils such as violent crimes. The security number left to the police puts the wrong individual in the history of committing a criminal offense. Besides violent crimes loans and credit cards can be easily obtained once an individual has obtained a social security number in conjunction with the personal details of the victim. The identity of US citizens is also stolen and sold in black markets to illegal immigrants. By giving the illegal immigrants social security numbers, the rightful owners are faced with the challenge of explaining monetary transactions they are not responsible for or face tax evasion and other legal measures. Moreover, cases of incorrect tax computation are therefore a possibility for the owners of stolen social security numbers as individuals can file false tax returns and still get a refund (McCoy, 2016). Other security menaces such as terrorism and trafficking are given leeway in the American society with the help of the stolen social security numbers that eases the process of acquiring new identities by the immigrants.
In summary, the losses attributed to cyber-attacks can be classified as cyber-attack costs. These are criminal revenue (benefits gained by the criminal perpetrators), direct losses associated with resetting credentials of the victim, defense costs aimed at securing the system against future breach and a setback to online storage of data in multiple ways (Anderson et al., 2013).
Figure 1; Cyber-attack cost component
Globally governments are on utilizing resources to support response teams to fight hackers, train employees and acquire cyber insurance in case of an attack. In the US the Department of Defense (DoD) employs different strategies and works in close relations with other agencies and private organizations to secure the nation against possible and existing threats.
The IRS is responsible for providing its protection against cyber threats and attacks. Investigations have also been carried out by Treasury inspector general for tax administration to shed more light on the IRS breach as the security of millions of American citizens is at risk. The IRS has taken the mandate of notifying the taxpayers they believe their information has been hacked to help in offering identity protection as early as possible. The main obstacle facing the notification of fraud victims is the lack of tax account by the victims on the IRS system (Dinan, 2017). Creating a notification alert for an individual without a tax account further results in giving birth to other insecurity measures. The IRS states that incidences of individuals loaning their social security numbers meant that they are perpetrators rather than victims of the fraudulent claims (Dinan, 2017). Since the IRS is limited from airing taxpayers' information with homeland security, the agency has created its criminal investigation department aimed to address increased tax crimes related to stolen identities.
Role of Independent Business Organizations and Institutions as Media Outlets
Combating cyber-crime is a team effort. Business organizations responsible for airing information to the public can help in battling cyber-crimes by calling individuals and organizations to assist in identifying and reporting possible cyber rime to the relevant authorities. These organizations can also help fight cybercrime by sensitizing the public on ways of securing private information from getting into the wrong hands and recovery methods after an attack. Creating awareness of cyber criminal's activities such as phishing the public becomes aware of the risk posed by third-party online access to personal information.
Fig 2; Keywords related to fraud activities in dark web
Source; https://www.digitalshadows.com/blog-and-research/tax-fraud-in-2017/In the context of the IRS data breach, independent organizations can sensitize the public such that individuals denying faced fraudulent charges such as tax evasion can come forward. Therefore, forcing organizations where their employees have filed their ITINs with W-2 forms that are fraudulently obtained to cancel the authorization check for initial work. Hence, shedding light on the stolen social security numbers and preventing prosecution of innocent American citizens. Business organizations should also take the measure of education the public on steps to be taken to avoid cases of stolen social security numbers at a personal level. Moreover, victims of identity theft should also be sensitized on techniques necessary for handling cases of identity theft such as filing complaints with the federal tax commission or the nearest local law enforcement agency.
Cyber-attacks have a detrimental effect on both the social and financial lives of individuals and organizations at the gain of the attackers. The crimes further manifest itself in various ways; therefore collective efforts from various organizations in combatting the attackers are more effective than isolated individual efforts. Consequently, the IRS on its own despite the set regulations cannot manage to curb incidence related to already lost taxpayers data. Efforts by both private and independent business organizations, media outlets and individual citizens in spotting and collaborating with law enforcers can help in mitigating the use of the stolen social security numbers to perpetrate criminal activities within and outside the US.
Anderson, R., Barton, C., Bohme, R., Clayton, R., Van Eeten, M. J., Levi, M., ... & Savage, S. (2013). Measuring the cost of cybercrime. The economics of information security and privacy (pp. 265-300). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
CBS NEWS (2016). Massive IRS data breach much bigger than first thought. Retrieved on 10th July 2018 from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/irs-identity-theft-online-hackers-social-security-number-get-transcript/
Claburn Thomas (2018). It's US Tax Day, so of course, the IRS's servers have taken a swan dive. The Register. Retrieved on 10th July 2018 from https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/04/17/irs_systems_stumble/
Dinan Stephen (2017). 1.4 million Illegals working under stolen Social Security numbers: Audit. The Washington Times. Retrieved on 10th July 2018 from https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jun/22/14-million-illegals-working-stolen-social-security/
Kevin McCoy (2016). Cyber hack got access to over 700,000 IRS accounts. USA TODAY. Retrieved on 10th July 2018 from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2016/02/26/cyber-hack-gained-access-more-than-700000-irs-accounts/80992822/
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International Cyber Crime(S) That Happen Related To Information Security on Web Servers. (2022, Jul 01). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/international-cyber-crimes-that-happen-related-to-information-security-on-web-servers
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