As we get deeper into the digital age, we are experiencing both the good and the bad that come with technology. One of the ‘bads’ is trends in cybercrime. According to Pricewatercoopers, cyber-crime is the fastest-growing type of economic crime in the world today.
On average, the costs of recovering from a cyber attack can be up to $20,000 for small businesses and has risen from $1.4 million to $13 million over the past year for larger organizations.
A single cyber attack can land a blow so devastating that a business might be unable to regain its footing. Nonetheless, most business owners are not fully aware of the threat that cyber-crime poses. Perhaps, it’s due to its non-violent nature that it doesn’t get as much response from law enforcement as other types of crimes.
However, the potential threat is of enormous magnitude. Recent reports suggest that the cost of cyber-crimes are expected to reach US $6.1 trillion by 2021, making it one of the most lucrative crimes in the world.
Business owners and consumers need to be more vigilant in order to make themselves less susceptible to cyber-attacks. The following are trends in cyber-crime that you need to be aware of to help you stay alert.
Phishing is Still Going Strong
Phishing refers to a type of cyber-crime where fraudsters masquerade as important entities that you are likely to know, such as your bank. They send you emails with the purpose of collecting sensitive information like your bank account details.
Even though phishing is one of the oldest forms of cyber-crime, it remains very popular among cybercriminals. This is because it works. Additionally, it is simple, cheap, and will continue to work as long as people read their emails and do not educate themselves on how to avoid being scammed.
Phishing is expected to become more targeted and specific to certain users. As such, web users are advised against downloading online material from untrusted sources, as that is one of the most popular phishing tactics.
Additionally, since online criminals also use phishing as a means of harvesting email addresses and login credentials, internet users are advised to adopt multi-factor authentication for all their online accounts.
Despite phishing being one of the most prominent cyber-security threats, it is also among the easiest to stop. This is because it relies more on human error (social engineering) rather than complex coding to work.
Businesses, therefore, should embark on educating their employees about phishing attacks in addition to showing them how to avoid them.
Increasing Ransomware Attacks
Another popular type of cyber-crime is ransomware. This refers to a kind of malicious software that is designed to block access to a computer until a certain amount of money is paid to the cyber criminal.
Advanced ransomware attacks can block out even entire organizations from both their computer systems as well as networks. Unfortunately, experts do not see this crime going away. In fact, we can expect to see more of it targeting consumers in the coming years.
Middle-class Americans will be particularly targeted as they are the group that is most likely to be overzealous in making such a problem go away via a quick payment. This has been the case for most corporations as well.
The healthcare industry, especially, still remains the number one target for ransomware attacks. Statistics show that 88 percent of all ransomware attacks are targeted at the healthcare sector.
This trend is expected to continue as long as systems with data stay under-protected, or do not practice adequate data backup.
Another thing to note is that ransomware attacks are increasingly being used as decoys to distract from other forms of attacks on critical infrastructure. This is because, while ransomware is typically used to block you from access to computer systems, criminals can now target any internet-connected device, including your car and smart home. The internet of things has opened up a whole new avenue for hackers to terrorize consumers.
As such, businesses are being advised to deploy next-level security measures for their internet of things applications, such as multi-factor user authentication, as well as application shielding and secure user onboarding.
At the moment, ransomware attacks of that nature hasn’t happened and, thus, most consumers do not expect that their cars, doorbells, and thermostats require the same level of protection that their computers do. However, it is a real possibility, and people should be well-prepared.
Protecting the Cloud
As we move more and more of our data to offsite cloud-based services, cyber criminals are taking note as well and are following suit. Unfortunately, most businesses wrongly assume that their data being off site means that it is secure. However, they couldn’t be more mistaken. The security of your offsite data majorly comes down to the level of protection that your cloud provider can offer you.
The issue now, therefore, comes down to whether enough measures are being taken to ensure all the data that is on the cloud is secure. The reality, however, while the value of what is on the cloud at the moment can be compared with that which is in Fort Knox, the level of security in the former pales in comparison.
To truly secure the cloud, you must have a well-secured application layer, especially with externally-facing API, mobile, and web assets, as these are the prime targets for the increasingly recurrent automated bot attacks.
Sadly, these kinds of attacks are almost impossible to detect using traditional security tools as they involve the use of legitimate usernames and passwords, not APTs and malware. As such, cloud security architects need to start using tools that can detect the underlying behavior and intentions of app transactions, as that is what is required in order to combat automated malicious bots.
Digital Ad Fraud is On the Rise
Digital ad fraud is one of the most inconspicuous types of cybercrimes. However, it is affecting more and more people each year, making it difficult for online content providers to generate revenue.
Estimates show that advertisers lose up to $19 billion each year due to fraud, meaning that they lose $51 million on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come as forecasts indicate that ad fraud will be a $44 billion industry by 2022.
Even though video is the content that has been most affected by ad fraud, other types of online content providers should also have their guard up as they are likely targets as well.
Fortunately, though, it seems as if law enforcement is finally taking ad fraud seriously. Last year, the Department of Justice announced a 13-Count indictment against eight men for various cyber crimes, including what the FBI termed as the biggest-ever fraud investigation.
Ad fraud mostly takes the form of hijacked or malicious ads that redirect users to phishing pop-ups, which enable the fraudsters to commit identity and credit card theft. During such an attack, a criminal usually poses as a legitimate advertiser; however, they use an insecure website for their phishing purposes.
Any type of organization is susceptible to ad fraud. Additionally, the attack comes in layers, with the first attack opening up the organization to subsequent ones.
While cryptocurrency hasn’t disrupted the financial world as was expected, it has become a vital tool in a lot of ransomware schemes. The hacker threatens to release personal data if they are not paid in cryptocurrency. This is done in the same manner as ransomware attacks.
In theory, cryptocurrency offers a means of payment that is virtually untraceable. As such, more and more cybercriminals are using cryptocurrency as their exchange mechanism of choice.
However, these digital currencies are not a perfect solution for criminals. Bitcoin, for instance, is easily traceable. Additionally, the cryptocurrency market is still majorly illiquid, thus making cashing out to be a costly and challenging endeavor.
The actual threat in cryptocurrency, however, is not in how it is used, but rather, how it is created – a process referred to as mining. This process involves using numerous computers to solve complex mathematical equations.
Since acquiring such a large number of computers can be difficult, criminals will often hack and remotely control peoples’ computers in order to harness their processing power. They usually achieve this through phishing or ad fraud, where they direct a user to an illicit website that then turns the user’s computer into a remote miner.
Combating Trends in Cybercrime
Cybercriminals are among the most refined types of thugs in the world. In order for their crimes to succeed, they must stay up-to-date with the most recent developments in the tech world. As such, this involves a lot of learning and skill-harnessing.
For the regular person or business, keeping up with these criminals can be a challenging endeavor. What’s more, the crimes are getting more and more sophisticated, to a point where you might not know that you are being robbed until it’s too late.
The only plausible solution, therefore, is to contract the services of a professional and reputable cyber-security company. These are professionals who are on a level playing field as the criminals, thus being able to combat threats as they surface.
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