Hoodlums to hackers | The rise in cybercrime

Hacking exploits and exposés continue to dominate media headlines – and for good reason. In 2017 alone, according to McAfee and CSIR’s joint report ‘The Economic Impact of Cyber Crime – No Sign of Slowing Down’,  cybercrime cost the global economy over US$600bn – of which approximately US$3bn was concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. Alarmingly, recent estimates by Forbes indicate that cybercrime will cost US$6 Trillion per year by 2022 – an almost unimaginable number to most of us.

Whether state sponsored cyber terrorism, organised crime 2.0 or hacktivism, cybercrime makes a lot of sense to growing numbers of people. Just one of the reasons can be ascribed to current unemployment figures. Following depressed global economic conditions in recent years, attention has turned to other means of making a living and the rise of a new, unvirtuous cycle.

Cybercrime has become a viable ‘career path’ for a number of reasons, not least of which, is the perception that it’s a ‘victimless crime’, particularity in the corporate world. It’s also hard to trace and prove, and harder to prosecute. Legislation hasn’t kept pace with the evolving criminal landscape – some inroads have been made, but there is still a long way to go.

Connected and dangerous

Now consider just how low the barriers of entry are. It couldn’t be easier to access connectivity, purchase an exploit kit or two, read some forums, watch a few videos and away they go – the next cyber-criminal is on their way to graduating.

In fact, online crime is fast becoming industrialised through the efforts of criminal, multinational organisations on the dark net. One-stop shops are being developed and run like businesses with all the tools and services needed to commit cybercrime. Exploit kits, custom malware, botnet rentals and ransomware distribution provide a diverse toolkit for as little as US$100.

This is the new, sophisticated generation of organised crime. The motivations may vary between creating a new income stream to the thrill of the chase and everything in-between –  hidden behind relative anonymity on the dark net.

Cybercrime as a Service isn’t a new concept, but is rapidly evolving to include everything a criminal could need including product development, technical support from help desks and even money-back guarantees.

Sophisticated crimes against the unsuspecting and underprepared

The ‘regular’ threats we see including those like ransomware holding data or devices hostage, or breaches threatening to expose sensitive data like medical records, banking details or personal particulars are fairly well known.

But there are emerging technologies that open an entirely new threat landscape. For instance, Blockchain technology is a robust, disruptive technology that is predicted by Gartner to increase business value-add to US$176bn by 2025. The newness of the technology presents cyber-attackers with opportunities for exploitation.

Alongside technological advancement will be the development of their cyber-criminal counterpart’s sophistication. For example, now viruses are smart and malware is equipped with artificial intelligence capability that self-adjusts until it finds vulnerabilities, is more energy-efficient and more effective than any human hacker, and also more economically attractive.

With this in mind, it is surprising that many organisations are underprepared or unaware of threats which in turn impedes their ability to identify attacks and defend themselves. Startlingly, NTT Security’s  ‘2017 Global Threat Intelligence Report’ revealed that nearly 47% of vulnerabilities are more than three years old and only a third of companies had a formal incident response plan in place.

In summary, crime isn’t just for your neighbourhood hoodlum. It has evolved to open an entire digital threat landscape. So no matter your business size, maturity or perceived degree of cyber risk, it’s a business imperative to implement risk management and cyber resilience protection and defence strategies.