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Cybercrime is using a computer to further illegal ends such as fraud, trafficking in drugs, weapons or child pornography, and stealing identities. It has grown in importance as the computer has become central to commerce, entertainment and government. At the federal level, the FBI’s Cyber Division is the lead agency for dealing with cybercrimes by terrorists or overseas adversaries. At the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency works with private sector companies to protect critical infrastructure from cyber attacks.

At the individual user level, there are many things people can do to reduce their risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime. One important step is to back up data regularly so that it can be restored in the event of a ransomware attack or data breach. Another is to learn to recognize suspicious websites or emails, especially if they have unusual typos or other clues that suggest they are not legitimate. Finally, it is a good idea to use an antimalware app and to keep operating systems and other software up to date as well as to avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments that appear out of the ordinary.

The costs of cybercrime are staggering to both businesses and individuals, ranging from identity theft to brand damage to huge financial burdens in the form of data breaches. For example, a recent study found that the average ransomware attack cost small and medium-sized businesses an estimated $141,000.