Cyber Crime Trends in 2019

Malaika Naidu

In 2017, 2 billion data records were compromised,
followed by more than 4.5 billion records in just the first half of 2018.

With every passing year, and at an accelerated pace since 2010, cybercriminals are using more advanced and scalable tools to breach privacy. And they are clearly getting results!

In the last 2 years, we see some cyber-crimes becoming more prevalent than others. Cyber safety organisations around the world fear that the growth of cyber-crimes in just these 6 months of 2019 will surpass the numbers of 2017 and 2018 put together. Give that a serious thought for a minute.

Cyber-crimes grow and evolve with consumer behaviour trends. So, the trending cyber-crimes complement our usage patterns of the internet and technology. In the last decade, emails and chat rooms used to be the most common methods of communication online. This decade, we see a shift to mobile apps like WhatsApp and Viber and social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Naturally, we see a shift from the number of email related frauds to social media frauds. Not to say that email frauds don’t happen anymore, it’s just that today we are more vulnerable on social media. And the numbers support this claim.

In 2018 alone, social media fraud increased by 43% from the year prior. Similarly, fraud in mobile channels has grown significantly in the last few years. In the same year, almost 70% of cyber-crimes originated or took form through vulnerabilities in mobile channels. A white paper, ‘Current State of Cybercrime – 2019’ by RSA Security says that the ease of use of such channels, absence of usage fees and other such simplicities will only help this trend grow exponentially.

So, what do we need to look out for in 2019?

Phishing Attacks

Phishing, as the name suggests, is looking or seeking private information under a guise. This usually happens through emails, instant messaging or text messages. The attacker masquerades as a trusted entity in order to hook and procure information such as passwords and PINs. One of the most efficient cyber-crimes, phishing is only growing in its complexity, ensuring its success further.  To add to the problem, phishing kits are easily available on the dark net. Meaning anyone with basic technical knowledge can purchase the kit and execute the attack. Once a phishing attack is successful, there is very little recourse for the victim.

Remote Access Threats

Basically, remote access is to gain unauthorised administrator access to a device, such as a computer or smart TV, from a remote network. This means the device being attacked and the device that is executing the attack are on separate networks. In 2018, the biggest remote access attack was cryptojacking, which targeted cyptocurrency owners. Now with Internet of Things and connected homes, we have only made ourselves even more vulnerable. These attacks can happen on any device connected to a network with open ports. Most common devices to come under this attack are computers, cameras, smart TVs, Network-Attached Storage (NAS) devices, alarm systems and home appliances.

Smartphone Vulnerabilities

We’ve started using mobile phones for everything from communication to banking. We are comfortable accessing and/or storing sensitive information on our mobile phones without proper protection of any sort, unlike how almost all of us have a firewall or antivirus on our computers. Think about all the apps that have access to data on your phones. Have you done your due diligence before downloading a random photo editing app? Aside from apps, another way attackers exploit our phones is through the two-step authentication system. While being one of the most widely used cybersecurity tools, it has actually increased our security risk in case a phone is stolen or lost.

How? Many platforms, including Facebook and Gmail, allow you to login on a fresh device using a code that will be sent to your phone. Similar vulnerabilities arise with OTPs. So, while this system adds a layer of security, it also makes you vulnerable in case your phone is stolen.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): Future of Tech

Every development in technology can be used for good and bad, as the user may see fit. Industries are working on cybersecurity systems perfected with AI, while hackers are using the same technology for themselves to become more effective. It doesn’t help that the qualities of AI inherently serve malicious purposes. AI systems are easy to create and separate the human element. Meaning, the hacker gets the advantage of being disconnected from the crime while still bearing the fruit. As we continue to pour millions into the development of AI, we’re simultaneously making it easier for cybercriminals. Think about the robots that are being developed for the medical industry – how do we prevent that robot from being hacked and turning violent instead of helpful?
Or even chatbots? Airline companies, banking websites, almost all e-commerce websites, and even educational organisations have chatbots on their websites. We’ve become comfortable chatting with a bot and often share privileged information when seeking help from the chatbot. How do you confirm that the chatbot hasn’t been compromised by a hacker? Are you mindful of what information you may be sharing with a hacker or do you share whatever information is asked for hoping to get help with whatever your grievance was?

Technology is both a friend and a foe. The expansive penetration of internet accessibility has only added to our conveniences and our problems. Be vigilant and do your due diligence when interacting through technology, straight away from the moment you go live on the internet.

What are some of the steps you take to protect yourself online?

VPN when using a public Wi-Fi?
Anti-virus on your phone?
Covering your webcam when not in use?
Turning off appliances/electronics when not in use?

Take a minute and think over your safety and security online – it is critical and completely in your hands!!!

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