Anyone who's ever been hit by a cyber attack knows how unnerving it is to have a complete stranger violate their digital life from behind a computer screen. Getting robbed by a physical mugger obviously carries its own problems, but there's something especially chilling about having to deal with a faceless entity that makes getting hacked a uniquely terrible experience.
This level of anonymity is something that cyber criminals work hard to maintain, as the entirety of their "job" relies on their ability to never get caught. However, hackers aren't just lines of code or pieces of malware. These are living, breathing human beings, and they don't always act alone. What's more, the cyber criminal underground isn't a singular being. There are multiple, fragmented collectives out there working constantly to make a profit off of illicit online activities.
What are the specifics that differentiate these groups from each other and what are some larger global cyber crime trends currently affecting the worldwide economy? Let's take a look:
Different locations, different cyber criminals
Although the Internet allows for communication on a scale never before seen in human history, it would appear that cyber criminals like to deal with individuals from within their own borders. Japanese hackers, for example, are extremely exclusive. Trend Micro researcher have found that these groups stay on forums that aren't accessible by the public, often using Japanese slang as passwords.
This kind of exclusivity isn't found in other cyber criminal undergrounds, especially within North America. Trend Micro has observed that hackers in this region tend to keep their communications on the Surface Web, which is the part of the internet that everyone has access to and is the opposite of the more nefarious Deep Web.
On top of that, hackers from separate parts of the world focus on different modes of illegal money making. While Brazilian cyber criminals like to work on bank fraud schemes, Japanese hackers tend to make a lot of their money on child pornography. North Americans tend to offer more physical goods and services, like drugs and hit men. China also stays within the physical spectrum, although these hackers tend to focus more on hardware that can be used to commit cyber crime.
Clearly, hackers have unique cultures that depend upon their physical location. However, this is only half of the equation. What kind of impact does cyber crime have on different parts of the world, and for that matter, how does hacking affect each industry?
Your industry and location don't matter, hackers can find you
Hackers may work with people from within their home countries, but countless international incidents prove that they don't stay there when looking for a target. That said, specific areas and business sectors suffer from different types and effects of cyber crime To understand why this is, it might be easier to imagine cyber crime as armed robbery: Liquor stores and gas stations may be held up more often than financial institutions, but a bank robbery is going to involve a lot more money and even more bad press.
A global survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that worldwide cyber attacks are now the second most-common variety of financial crime. However, the survey found that disparate sections of the world have their own distinct point of view when it comes to data breaches.
The Middle East, for example, apparently doesn't hold much pity for companies that become victims of cyber crime. The PwC study found that 20 percent of surveyed organizations felt there was a "high" impact on their businesses' reputation following such an event. In Western Europe, on the other hand, only 9 percent of companies had a "high" impact, while 75 percent had "low/none."
What's truly enlightening about this research is the fact that different industries are also affected by cyber crime in distinct ways. As one might guess, the tech industry sees a clear effect on reputation following a cyber attack, with 25 percent of organizations feeling a "high" level of impact. These companies are supposed to be technologically advanced, and customers expect them to be able to fend off hackers.
However, a surprising bit of this research has to do with the level of information that makes its way to the board room following an attack. According to the study, nearly 30 percent of government executives either never requested information about the incidents or only asked for it once a year. Considering how massively important federal data breaches can be, this shows that government agencies might want to change how they prepare for and react to a cyber attack.
Cyber crime is a worldwide phenomenon and yet each country has its own unique style. That said, the overall goal of making money off the misfortunes of others remains the same. The only way organizations can protect themselves is to study these differences, find out what local hackers are doing and take every available precaution to avoid these specific crimes.