June 28, 2019

As Benjamin Franklin said, “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. If Benjamin F was alive today he would likely add cybercrime to that statement.

Why do I say that? By 2021, the cost of cybercrime globally is expected to reach $6 trillion USD, that’s about £4.7 trillion GBP. The business of cybercrime is big, I mean really big.

In the Kroll Global Fraud and Risk report, they found that in some countries 100% of business have experienced a cyber-attack. In the UK, our businesses are now a major part of this cybercrime wave; UK organisations being the 2nd biggest victim of cybercrime in the world, according to the Kroll report.

Sometimes, when a problem is so big it seems impossible to resolve, you have to stand back and look at it from afar.

Why Cybercrime is Soaring

Cybercrime is basically about three motives (which may overlap):

  • Money: It makes the world and cybercrime go around. A study showed that a high-earning cybercriminal can make £1.4 million GBP per year. Extracting this money is not usually direct, as in the case of ransomware. It can take several steps to get there, including theft of personal data, identity theft, and fraud. So, the cybercriminal may use a multi-step process to get at your cash or personal data – the data being sold on to commit fraud. This might involve a phishing email, malware, stolen credentials, impersonation, and ultimately theft. Occasionally, the route is more direct, like ransomware which extorts money to decrypt, encrypted files.
  • Espionage: The theft of trade secrets is a long-standing crime that is now enabled through technology. In a 2018 report by U.S. authorities, they found that 71% of companies are still not fully aware of the threat of cyber-espionage. If you have Intellectual property, including source code, blueprints, design specs, etc. you have a valuable commodity. Here insider threat and collusion with outside entities or spear phishing emails can be the start of the loss of your property.
  • Being Badass: There is a criminal element that carries out cybercrime just because they can. It may have an element of money about it; it may often just be to cause mayhem. Criminal damage of computing systems can occur due to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. But even theft of customer data can have long-standing damage to a company’s reputation.

When is Cybercrime Not a Crime?

There is an element within the cybersecurity community who some might call cybercriminals whereas others would call them cyber-activists or ‘hacktivists’. Probably the most infamous of this fraction is ‘Anonymous’. Typically, a hacktivist group will target a specific organisation or group. For example, back in 2015, Anonymous stole the data of 4,200 workers in the U.S. Census Bureau as a protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Where and How Cybercrime Operates

Cybercriminal activity has no domain. It is the epitome of diversity and equality. Cybercriminals target any entity that meets their requisite needs, be that money, trade secrets, or for a political statement.

The tools of the trade:The darknet often contains the tools and know-how needed to execute a cyber-attack. Malware is up for hire and phishing kits can be bought off-the-shelf for a few dollars. Every second, four new strains of malware are created. The tools of the trade are out there and very easy to access.

Group hugs: Cybercriminals work both alone and in groups. Hacker groups have been behind some of the largest and most destructive cyber-attacks. The malware behind some of the biggest botnets on the planet, often have groups running them. The hacking group, ‘Outlaw” for example, was found by Trend Micro to be using Crypto-mining malware to infect hundreds of thousands of devices that were then turned into botnets. These could then be used to create a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

The embracement of diversity: Cybercriminals do not care if your company is large or small, saving lives or selling products. In fact, they may even have a preference for small, more vulnerable organisations. A UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) report found that 42% of micro and small businesses suffered at least one breach or attack in the 12-months to the report being published in 2018. The thing that cybercrime has in common, across the board, is that they focus on human beings. We, us, the human in the kill chain, is the link to success. Phishing is still deemed to be the number one threat by UK businesses.

Why We Need to Think Like a Cybercriminal

The threat to a business by cybercrime cannot be underestimated. But if we think like a cybercriminal we can at least be on equal terms with our foe. The antithesis of cybercrime is knowledge and understanding how a cybercriminal thinks can give us ammunition to counter their attacks. More than 80% of businesses lack the resources to fix the situation caused by a cyber-attack. Logically, this means we need to prevent the attack happening in the first place. We must start to create strategies around the way that cybercriminals operate to stop an attack becoming an incident.

This means we need all of our staff, every last one, to be on their guard against cybercrime. The human factor is still the first port of call for many cyber-threats; phishing is the delivery method behind 94% of malware infections. And 80% of breaches were down to the abusive use of privileged account, e.g. administrator accounts.

Human beings are our worst enemy (those pesky bad guys!!) and our best defence. Make sure your staff understands who their enemy is and how they think. If you can empower your staff using security know-how you can help to break this trend of ever-increasing cybercrime statistics.

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