Cyber-crime: Are you ready to tackle one of the biggest challenges of our time?
Need for heightened awareness
Not everyone is aware of the global threat of online crime and fraud. But while some people might shrug their shoulders and say, “It won’t happen to me”, the more unsuspecting the victim, the easier it is for criminals to exploit a situation. The consequences can be disastrous, not just for corporates, but also for individuals.
According to Norton’s 2017 Cyber Insights report, published in January 2018, 998 million people in 20 countries experienced some form of cyber-crime in 2017, a significant increase on 2016’s 689 million and 400m more than 2015. Furthermore, the source of crime can be very simplistic. Most network intrusions, in excess of 60%, are the result of compromised user passwords (source: Microsoft). When Symantec conducted a survey on cyber fraud, they discovered that 76% of consumers in 21 countries acknowledged the importance of keeping account information secure, yet many still shared their passwords.
This is a cause for great concern as in 2016, cyber-crime was the second most reported economic crime (source: PwC). In the UK, for example, cyber-crime accounts for more than 50% of all offences. Equally disconcerting, a study by University of Maryland in the US discovered that hackers are launching assaults on computers and networks on a near-constant rate (every 39 seconds).
Against this backdrop, it is logical and prudent to ensure people are aware of the threats and the consequences of cyber-crime, either through sharing industry information, training or by making sure the right practices and tools are in place to provide appropriate protection.
There’s no shortage of information available, but the challenge is to navigate through the conflicting opinions and to keep abreast of the constantly-evolving threats. Needless to say, the response to cyber-crime varies across the globe.
Cyber-crime – global and costly
Cyber-crime impacts profitability and stock prices and has no boundaries and the following snapshot of just some of the research findings make for worrying reading:
- Microsoft has suggested the cost to the global community could be as much as US$500bn and market analysts have predicted the financial burden of cyber-crime damages could reach US$6tn annually by 2021.
- According to PwC, in 2016, almost a third of all US organisations were victims of cyber-crime. And within a year, the US government, reports Symantec, spent some US$14bn on cyber-security. Microsoft estimated that the average cost of a data breach to a business was around US$3.8bn and Juniper research puts such breaches, which constitute the largest number of crimes, as rising to US$2.1tn by 2019.
- In 2017 US$172bn was lost by consumers due to cyber-crime (Source: Norton Cyber Insights). At the same time, criminals have become very adept at avoiding detection.
- Microsoft research pointed out that an attacker can reside within a network for an average of 146 days before being identified. Using tools like encryption and identity-concealing tactics, the offenders are constantly undermining traditional security technologies while constantly refreshing their own capabilities. Attack sophistication is still on the rise with perpetrators well trained, highly professional and equipped with significant levels of computing capacity, exploitation and masking tools. Furthermore, cyber criminals’ portfolios are becoming more diverse, with widespread use of ransomware, CEO fraud, attacks on critical infrastructure, state-sponsored attacks and the more recent crypto-currency fraud.
- The World Economic Forum (WEF), in its Global Risks Report for 2018, listed cyber-attacks as the third most likely risk facing the world, noting that attacks against business have almost doubled in five years. The WEF pointed out that the number of potential targets for criminals is poised to increase, with cloud computing and the Internet of Things expanding dramatically.
Malware, ransomware, anywhere
Development of malware by criminals is also expanding. It is an umbrella term, but includes computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses and ransomware.
A particular wake-up call for the banking sector came in early-2016 when malware was inserted into the Bangladeshi central bank which resulted in an attempt to steal US$951m. This was mostly stopped but it prompted SWIFT to launch a customer security programme, which aims to improve information sharing and provide enhanced tools to facilitate better customer security.
One of the most significant developments in cyber-crime in 2017 was the introduction of blackmailing techniques through ransomware, which has moved beyond mere financial gain and has been used in nation-state attacks and corporate espionage.
The most high profile cases of ransomware causing major disruption were the so-called WannaCry and Petya attacks. WannaCry took place in May 2017 and was a ransomware cryptoworm which targeted computers running the Microsoft operating system (see also the flow article, ‘Combating cybercrime’). Similarly, the Petya ransomware attack, first discovered in 2016, also honed in on Microsoft Windows-based systems.
The WannaCry attack of May 2017 by the WannaCry ransomware cryptoworm, targeted computers running Microsoft Windows by encrypting data and demanding ransom payments in Bitcoin crypto-currency. It propagated through EternalBlue, an exploit in older Windows systems. Much of WannaCry's spread was from organisations that had not applied these, or were using older Windows systems past their end-of-life. The attack was stopped within a few days of its discovery due to emergency patches released by Microsoft but it was estimated to have affected more than 200,000 computers worldwide, with total damages ranging from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.
Combating the criminals
Attackers can be ingenious in attempting to break into an organisation, using phishing and spam campaigns as a way to break open the door.
Most attacks on critical and strategic systems have not succeeded. The European Aviation Safety Agency has revealed that aviation systems are subject to an average of 1,000 attacks per month, but this sector has developed a common approach to risk management and information sharing mechanisms that have been successful in thwarting attacks. However, the number of isolated successes and a growing catalogue of attempted attacks suggests the risks are increasing.
Organisations can better prepare and protect themselves by creating layers of security, often referred to as ‘Defence in Depth’. The intent is to avoid relying on a single solution or approach to security, but instead to reduce the potential effectiveness of an attack by disrupting a threat actor at different stages during an attack.
Led by our cyber intelligence team, Deutsche Bank helps to promote information sharing communities, the development of stronger firewalls – both human and technical- and cooperation with national and supranational initiatives and associations.
Click below to download the pdf of the cyber security factsheet
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