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How will cyber crime evolve?

cyber crime

Cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated in their approach, making it much more challenging for businesses to protect themselves and their employees against it.

With some of the largest companies in the world being the victim of these data breaches, it can be difficult for smaller firms to see how they can safeguard themselves against attacks.

Major businesses like Yahoo have found themselves at the centre of data scandals, with customer details often being leaked in the process. 

Because of their increasingly specialised skill set, cyber criminals are becoming a highly prized asset to certain organisations. This, according to a Reuters report, could mean that terrorist groups have a way to target even larger numbers of people. At the moment, it appears as though they aren't using cybercrime, but the potential for what it could mean for the future is huge. 

In its annual Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA), EU police agency Europol said there was "little evidence" to suggest that their cyber-attack capability extends beyond "common website defacement".

However, the internet's criminal side - or Darknet - has the potential to exploited by militants taking advantage of computer specialists who offer "crime as a service", the Europol report said.

It added that the "availability of cybercrime tools and services, and illicit commodities (including firearms) on the Darknet, provide ample opportunities for this situation to change".

Earlier this year, $81 million was stolen by cyber criminals from the Bangladeshi central bank. But far more than just money was taken from the bank, with many patrons losing faith in the bank's ability to keep their finances and details safe. 

Gottfried Leibbrandt, chief executive of the payment network that supplies the bank, Swift, said the business of protecting money has now changed because of the evolution of cyber crime.

Speaking to the Financial Times, he explained that criminals no longer need "guns and blow torches" to steal money from banks but just a computer. This, Mr Leibbrandt explained, means payment networks are having to work out new ways to evolve alongside a rapidly changing set of digital threats.

The approach that was used at the Bangladeshi central bank was also then used at banks in Vietnam, the Philippines and Ecuador. However, the ways to protect against these problems lie with both the customers and the banks themselves.

It appears that these kind of attacks are increasing, with Rob Wainwright, Europol director, describing it as "relentless growth". This uncontrollable rise has made cyber crime a real and significant threat to collective security in Europe.

Further suggesting that these criminals are becoming more sophisticated and seeing cyber crime as a career, a report from cyber experts at the Russian Ministry of Communications said hackers are investing in themselves.

Nikolay Nikiforov, an official spokesperson at Russia's Ministry of Communications, told SC magazine that around 40 per cent of what they earn from cyber crime is invested by the hacker to improve the technology and hardware they use.

He said this was the result of "new attack methods" because of a change in priorities by hackers in recent years. No longer are they just interested in attacks on the private bank accounts of individuals, but they are now more focused on targeting the breach of correspondent accounts of banks, he explained.

Despite this apparent growing sophistication in cyber crime methods and approaches, it seems that a number of companies are complacent about the threat.

A survey by Barclaycard of more than 250 small businesses found that just a fifth consider cyber security to be a top business priority. This is despite research showing that the average attack on a small business costs between £75,000 and £311,000.

With the growing abilities of cyber criminals, safeguarding against it can seem like a considerable challenge, especially for smaller companies.

However, there are ways that businesses can defend themselves, but it's important to not take your eye off the ball.
Paul Clarke, Product Director at Barclaycard, said: "Cybersecurity is not a one-off investment that can then be forgotten about, especially as criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the way they target businesses."