21 Jul 2016

The future of crime?

Welcome to the future of crime: high volume, low margin.

As figures released today show, around one in fifteen Brits falls victim to cyber crime.

Here are the headline stats:

  • 1.4m people hit with a computer virus
  • 1.9m cyber-related frauds (ie. the internet was used as part of the fraud)
  • 600,000 victims of personal data hacks

Computer crime is a numbers game. For a few hundred quid you can pick up millions of stolen email addresses on the dark web, send them a dodgy email and start the fraud process.

The current bogeyman is a thing called “ransomware”: the victim opens an infected email attachment or link, and the virus scrambles all their files. To unscramble their photos, documents and other files, the victim has to pay a ransom (using the virtual currency Bitcoin).

This form of hacking is so well-developed that dark websites offer free downloads of a ransomware viruses – in return for a cut of the money when the ransom is paid.

The ransom amount can be as little as £50 (because if the hacker sets the ransom too high, the victim will simply not think it worth paying). Small beer, right? Not when you do it at scale: one tech security company traced the proceeds of just one ransomware campaign and totted it up to $325m.

With little chance of arrest and such big profits to be made, don’t expect these fraud figures to decline any time soon.