SINCE THE start of the year, businesses and individuals in the UK have reported a total of 14,883 instances of cyber crime episodes, with financial losses of £5.7 million being the end result. Despite 90% of the offences involved focusing on members of the general public, UK businesses themselves have reported losses of circa £1.9 million.
A new study* recently conducted by click fraud prevention expert PPC Shield indicates that malicious hacking, the fraudulent use of social media accounts and e-mail scams have been the most common form of methods used to transact cyber crime so far this year, accounting for 43% of all reported incidents since the beginning of January. Also in the high-ranking categories are reports of malware/viruses, personal hacking and extortion.
Data compiled from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau indicates that individuals under 40 years of age – 5,000 of them, in fact – have reported the most cyber incidents this year. This suggests that the scammers and hackers are predominantly targeting the younger, more ‘tech-savvy’ generation. In short, those individuals who are well versed in juggling multiple social media accounts, e-mail addresses and banking apps.
Though acts of cyber crime perpetrated against corporate bodies only account for circa 10% of the UK’s total number of reported cyber offences, the resulting financial losses in the region of £1.9 million account for one third of the overall figure.
Focusing on the impact exacted on the victims of cyber crime, Office for National Statistics data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales indicates that 72% of those individuals impacted by cyber crime expressed the view that they had been emotionally affected by their experiences, with almost one third of survey respondents highlighting a moderate-to-severe impact (predominantly centred on feelings of annoyance and anger).
One-in-ten individuals have experienced emotions such as anxiety, depression or fear as the direct result of having been on the receiving end of cyber criminality. Others have found it difficult to sleep.
Malware and phishing
Despite the personal nature of certain cyber crimes, it emerges that 81% of offences this year have been committed by an individual (as opposed to a group) that wasn’t known to the victim.
In terms of the methods used to commit cyber criminality, the deployment of malware (ie software designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client or network) is currently at its lowest point since 2007. That’s according to Google’s Transparency Report. In contrast, phishing websites (which seek to gain private passwords, credit card numbers and other private information from unsuspecting individuals without the use of applications) have witnessed an increase in traffic of more than 750% since 2007.
In all cases of cyber crime that resulted in financial loss, one-in-three individuals discovered the offences being perpetrated by way of communications from their bank, building society or another form of financial institution.
Including non-cyber assisted fraud, the UK has logged 253,736 reports of fraud and cyber criminality in 2021 that equate to total financial losses of a staggering £1.2 billion.
Lord James Bethell (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care) has commented on the rise of phishing scams conducted over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an increase in fraudulent texts and calls to mobile phones.
It appears that criminal individuals have been posing as bank employees, representatives of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and even the NHS (in terms of the latter to attempt charging for fake COVID tests and Track and Trace solutions).
Commenting on the figures involved, a spokesperson for PPC Shield commented: “With the Internet now such an essential part of our daily lives, taking care online and using robust security measures is of the utmost importance. Always be aware of what you’re clicking on and be very wary of phishing sites as well as e-mails sent from companies or individuals with whom you’re not familiar.”
*Data compiled from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, the Office for National Statistics and Google’s Transparency Report
**PPC Shield enables brands and businesses to optimise their online advertising campaigns by filtering out and blocking fraudulent clicks in a determined bid to ensure a given advertising budget isn’t wasted. Further information is available online at www.ppcshield.io