Revealed: The Increasing Cost of Cybercrime in the UK
A recent study carried out by click fraud prevention experts PPC Shield analyzed cybercrime data since 1 January 2021 to find out how much cybercrime costs the UK this year.
A total of 14,883 reported cybercrime cases to have cost people and businesses in the UK £5.7 million since the beginning of 2021.
Interestingly, UK businesses only suffered a third of all cybercrime-related financial losses in the country this year. They reported losing £1.9 million of the total £5.7 million lost to digital crime. The study has found that malicious hacking, fraudulent use of social media accounts, and e-mail scams made up 6,300 of all cybercrime cases in 2021, making them the most commonly reported forms of cybercrime.
According to the study, these three types of digital crime make up 43% of all incidents so far in 2021. Hackers and scammers tend to use fake social media accounts and e-mail addresses to prompt users to follow links that lead to websites that steal data. 90% of all cybercrime targets members of the public rather than corporations. The study also suggests that hackers and scammers target young, tech-savvy individuals and not people who lack experience with technology.
The British public has lost £3.8 million to cybercrime offenses in 2021. Apart from hacking, social media frauds, and e-mail scams, other prevalent cybercrimes involve malware and viruses, personal hacking, and extortion. A spokesperson for PPC Shield commented on their study’s findings:
“With the internet being such an essential part of our daily lives, taking care online and using robust security measures are of utmost importance. Always be aware of what you are clicking on, and be especially wary of phishing sites and e-mails sent from companies or individuals that you are not familiar with.”
PPC Shield, the company that conducted the study, has experience optimizing online campaigns to prevent fraudulent clicks. Their insight into increasing cybercrime costs has also shed some light on current cybercrime trends, outlined below.
Who commits cybercrimes?
Cybercrimes are typically committed by individuals or groups of hackers and scammers. They target people or companies depending on how skilled they are and what they want to gain. As the study suggests, a cybercriminal’s end goal is usually stealing money. According to the study, individual criminals targeting other people make up most of the cybercrime in the UK. Out of all cyberattacks this year, 90% have been against people and not companies.
19% of cybercrimes against individuals are committed by a cybercriminal who has some type of connection to the victim. That leaves the majority of cases as cybercrimes committed against someone who is not known by the cybercriminal.
What should people watch out for to avoid cybercrimes?
The most popular cybercrime tools are phishing websites, according to Google’s Transparency Report. The study suggests people should be wary of any fraudulent-looking links they receive from fake e-mail addresses. Direct messages on social media and even text messages can also be fraudulent, so Brits should watch out for anything suspicious.
Phishing websites aim to gain passwords, credit card information, and other private details. They acquire all this personal data through fraudulent websites that prompt users to fill in a form or log in.
There has been an alarming increase in phishing activities between 2007 and 2020. The number of phishing websites has increased by 750% in 13 years.
Although malware has not been a popular cybercrime tool among criminals since 2007, the British public should still be cautious. Malware is software that downloads onto a device to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or network. It can do so without one’s knowledge by downloading alongside a fraudulent application or downloading while visiting a fraudulent website or clicking on an infected ad.
Covid-19 phishing scams
Scammers took advantage of the general state of anxiety in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic. Brits were less likely to question calls or texts regarding pandemic-related issues and services, so there was a rise in scams related to Covid-19.
There was a sudden rise in phishing activities over the pandemic. The health minister Lord Bethell addressed these scams, bringing attention to how frequently they affected the British public.
Some common Covid-19 phishing scams included fraudulent texts and calls to mobile phones. Scammers used these texts and calls to pose as bank employees, HMRC agents and even pretended to work for the NHS. Some of the NHS phishing scams charged people for fake Covid tests and for track & trace services.
Which people are targeted most by cybercrime?
According to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, people under 40 reported the most cybercrime incidents against individuals in 2021 and were affected by a total of 5,500 cybercrimes. These crimes make up over a third of all 14,883 cases this year.
Using the data, PPC Shield built a profile for the most common hacking and scamming target. The likely target for these crimes is young and has multiple active social media accounts. They also use multiple e-mail addresses and banking apps, making their personal details easier to steal through phishing.
How can cybercrime affect people?
Suffering from cybercrime is a stressful experience. It has lasting impacts on the victim beyond financial loss. 72% of those affected by cybercrimes reported feeling emotionally affected by their negative experience, according to ONS data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).
A third of those emotionally affected by cybercrimes also revealed that the crime had a moderate to severe impact on their wellbeing. Cybercrime victims commonly experienced annoyance and anger.
One in 10 cybercrime victims reported experiencing anxiety, depression, fear, or difficulty sleeping due to the incidents. The data suggests cybercrimes have a severe impact on a victim’s wellbeing.
How can Brits find out they were targeted by cybercriminals?
It can be difficult for people to tell whether they had their information stolen or if their device was compromised. Some people may not even know they fell victim to a scammer or hacker’s criminal activities until money goes missing from their bank accounts or they get blackmailed directly.
Out of all cybercrime cases that caused victims to lose money in 2021, one in three were flagged up by the victim’s bank, building society, or other financial institutions. These Cybercrime victims only learned about the incidents when they received communications from their banking services.
Although banks and other financial institutions play a crucial role in alerting users of fraudulent activities, not all notifications should be trusted. Many scammers take advantage of the trust users have in their bank. They make their e-mails and messages look as if trustworthy sources sent them to try and steal personal data.
How can you protect yourself against cybercrime?
Although there is no perfect solution for you to prevent experiencing cybercrime, some things may help.
Using a full-service Internet security suite antivirus can deter malware such as ransomware and viruses. Antivirus programs also help you protect personal, private, and financial information while browsing online.
Keeping all software updated will make it harder for hackers to use any flaws in the software and gain access to your device. It helps to keep software such as the device’s operating system and internet security updated since they’ll be the first targets in a cyberattack.
Using strong passwords and avoiding their repetition across websites makes it harder for cybercriminals to hack into accounts. Ideally, your password should have at least ten characters, and contain letters, numbers, and symbols.
Improving Wi-Fi security is essential to maintaining a safe internet connection. A strong encryption password at home and a VPN while using public Wi-Fi will protect your devices against hackers.
Limiting public personal information on social media can help reduce the risk of cyberattacks. Criminals use your readily available private information on social media to find out possible answers to security questions and potential passwords you may think of.
Keeping an eye out for phishing scams is important. Being aware of how scammers operate and researching their techniques can prevent you from falling victim to phishing.