30 July 2020

The rise of cyber crime

Cyber crime, or crime that uses the internet or a computer to carry out the crime, is a term used to cover a whole host of different criminal acts.


Most of them are not new.  Fraud and scams have been around since time began but what makes cyber crime such a huge issue is the access to huge amounts of data that is provided by a network.  And the fact that within any network there can be vast amounts of people.

In the 1980s it was boiler room scams that made the headlines, which soon progressed to customer fraud and pension scams, when a caller rang professing to be from a trusted source and persuaded you to invest in x, y or z scheme. The premise today is very much the same, with the most prevalent type of cybercrime being phishing. 

Phishing is when someone attempts to steal your personal information by sending, typically, an email purporting to be from a legitimate website that you may have previously interacted with.  Often it will ask you to validate your user details and password, resulting in you unwittingly giving your password to someone who should not have it.  And given how many of us use the same passwords for each site, it is possible that the organisation or individual who is committing the fraud now has access to all your online accounts.

Many of us think that crime such as this is something that happens to other people. But anyone who has a bank account or investments for example is a potential target for this underworld of crime. With 80%[1] of businesses estimated to have come under attack at one time or another in the UK alone, and an estimated cost to the UK economy of £27billion[2], this is not something that can be ignored.

Online fraud and crime is also increasing rapidly.  Google recently announced that they have seen 18 million hoax emails sent about Covid-19 on a daily basis, highlighting how fraudsters look to take advantage of crisis situations. As well as becoming more prevalent, fraud attempts are getting more sophisticated as the criminals looks to circumvent the measures put in place. In the Annual Cost of Cybercrime Study, Accenture and Ponemon Institute (2019) reported that company security breaches were up 67% over the last five years. It is also worth considering that the number of internet users doubled in just three years from two billion in 2015 to four billion (nearly half the world’s population) in 2018.

18 million hoax emails sent about Covid-19 on a daily basis, highlighting how fraudsters look to take advantage of crisis situations.

Google

Individuals might well think this is a good reason not to have online accounts or use the internet less. Whilst this might protect you somewhat, it does not make you immune to cyber fraud, as your details will be held online somewhere and bank fraud is still carried out over the phone, as one of our case studies reveals, with payments made online and easily “lost” in the world wide web.

This guide is by no means an exhaustive resource to beating cyber crime but it does highlight many of the different tactics used by the fraudsters and offer up some tips as to how to limit your risk.  If you only take away one thing from this series of articles, it is worth remembering that fraudsters are most likely to play on our own weaknesses.  If we adopt an approach that questions the authenticity of any requests we receive, we will likely spot the fraud attempts.

We have also included some guidance on how to keep your business safe, taking some practical examples from the cyber security investment that JM Finn makes in a bid to retain its clients’ privacy and fight the relentless attacks that come our way. 

With social media being the mainstream communication tool for many of us, particularly, teenagers, we have included an article about how to protect your personal reputation online. One mistaken post can have long-term repercussions for an individual. According to Ofcom, 83% of 15 year olds have at least one social media account so it is important this cohort of web users are appropriately educated in how to protect themselves.

One thing this guide is not designed to do, is to scare users away from the internet.  Since its founding in the early 1980s the world has embraced digital as its go to communication tool, allowing for faster, more efficient information flow that has served to enhance our lives. With careful and responsible use, we can continue to leverage the web in a safe and secure manner.


[1] Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport report

[2] UK Government (the-cost-of-cyber-crime-full-report.pdf)

Cyber crime awareness

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