Global cyber crime is a fascinating, albeit frightening look into the activities of hackers and the impact they can have on individual businesses and industries overall. Trend Micro researchers have looked into an array of cyber criminal trends in a range of different global regions, and has found that each area has its own unique challenges, as well as wide-ranging similarities.
Cyber crime originating from and victimizing organizations in the United Kingdom is no different. Hackers leverage specific techniques to target, snoop data and steal information and monetary assets from U.K. businesses, and a recent report from the U.K. National Crime Agency – underscored by Trend Micro's own findings – shows that hacking activity is alive and well in the nation.
Main cyber criminal threats
Overall, we've found that the hacking taking place here centers around a few specific techniques, which U.K. businesses should not only be aware of, but should look to specifically protect against. These include:
- Business Email Compromise schemes, where hackers typically target companies that work with foreign partners and take part in wire transfers on a consistent basis. Here, executives' email accounts are compromised and then leveraged to encourage other employees to send considerable amounts of money to hackers' foreign accounts via the previously mentioned wire transfers.
- Distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks, where a company's website is bombarded by network traffic originating from hackers. The aim here is to over exceed the website's supporting capacity, significantly slowing the platform's performance or making it completely unavailable. This prevents clients and customers from reaching the business via its online resources.
- Ransomware is also a main pain point in the U.K., where important files are locked via encryption, and a ransom is demanded by cyber criminals in return for the decryption key. These types of attacks have become a rising threat the world over, and can be incredibly dangerous, particularly in the enterprise sector.
The cyber criminal environment in the U.K.
Taking a look at the NCA's Cyber Crime Assessment report, a picture of cyber criminal activity in the country begins to emerge. Researchers discovered that in 2015, there were a total of 2.46 million cyber incidents. What's more, these events produced almost as many victims. With 2.11 million U.K. individuals being successfully targeted by hackers during the same time period.
Of these attacks, 36 percent fell under the cyber-enabled fraud category, and another 17 percent were considered computer misuse.
"Computer misuse and computer enabled crime accounted for 53 percent of all crime in the U.K. in 2015, making it larger than all other kinds of crime," noted a TrendLabs Security Intelligence blog. "The report notes how cyber crime has surpassed normal or traditional crime, in terms of impact."
This is significant for the U.K., as it signals an increasing transition from traditional crime toward increasingly dangerous and powerful cyber episodes.
Statistics included for the first time
The Guardian contributor Alan Travis noted that when crime figures first emerged, they were particularly shocking considering this was the first time cyber crime was included in the statistics.
"The crime rate for England and Wales has doubled to more than 11.6 million offenses," Travis reported. "The sharp rise in the headline figure is due to the inclusion of an estimated 5.1 million online fraud incidents and 2.5 million cyber crime offenses for the first time."
What's more, the impact of these incidents are also now being more widely reported. Travis noted that of these incidents, more than half of victims reported some type of financial loss. Thankfully, over 62 percent were compensated for these losses in full.
"The statisticians said they had an open mind on whether to include these within the headline crime rate, as often such attacks are blocked by anti-virus protection and not experienced as a crime by the victim," Travis wrote.
However, their inclusion here not only demonstrates the increasing impact cyber crime is having on individuals and businesses in this global region, but that these attacks are also more successful.
A partnership for protection
As the danger cyber crime poses continues to increase, organizations are working toward ensuring better protection for consumers as well as corporations and service providers. In this spirit, Trend Micro recently announced a newly formed partnership with U.K.'s National Crime Agency, which will help establish a virtual team to better identify strategic approaches to prevent cyber crime.
"This [Memorandum of Understanding' strengthens the NCA's ongoing commitment to working closely with our partners in taking every possible opportunity to combat the threat posed by cyber crime," said Steven Heywood, NCA Head of Intelligence and Tasking. "Utilizing and sharing the expertise of Trend Micro will allow us to further understand and respond to emerging and evolving cyber crime threats to the U.K."
Doing your part: Steps toward better security
In addition to this powerful partnership, individual users as well as businesses can also take steps to better protect their sensitive data from hackers.
Overall, education and awareness is key. Both individual and employee users should understand the threats that they face, including email compromise schemes, ransomware and the potential for DDoS attacks. In addition, leveraging best practices, like not opening suspicious emails or links, can go a long way toward ensuring security.
It's also critical to have the right protection tools in place within individual or corporate-owned technology. Monitoring solutions can help ensure that suspicious activity is identified as soon as possible, enabling the user or the company's IT team to react and better manage the problem. Systems like data encryption, virus and malware protection are also valuable parts of IT security.
When cyber crime does take place, however, it's critical that it is reported to the authorities.
"And while reporting a crime does not guarantee that local authorities will be able to apprehend the cyber criminals or attackers, at least it helps to show the scale of the problem," the TrendLabs Security Intelligence blog pointed out. "Doing so also allows government agencies to properly allocate their resources to best help and protection their citizens against cyber crime."
Users across the globe need to be aware of rising cyber crime rates, as well as the best strategies for protecting themselves.