In the United Kingdom, traditional methods of crime – occurrences like thefts, home invasions and other criminal incidents – are on the decline. Back in 1995, there were 19 million such incidents. These days, those numbers have dropped to below 7 million. So those numbers signal significant progress, right? Sort of – but not exactly.
"Traditional crime is down, but cybercrime is up – and this is a big problem for businesses."
While those dropping crime figures might sound like all-around good news, unfortunately for residents of the U.K., crime overall is not down. In fact, it is on the rise. Rather than declining, as experts have pointed out, crime in the U.K. has in recent years experienced a shift. Increasingly, traditional crimes are taking the back seat to a newer threat: cybercrime. Between England and Wales, there have been 2.5 million instances of direct cybercrime and 5.1 million incidents of online fraud, The Guardian reported. In fact, when you put virtual crimes into the equation, it turns out that the overall crime rate has doubled in the country.
This doubling of crime in the U.K. due to the inclusion of cyber-based crime highlights just what a potent threat cybercrime now poses globally.
As John Flatley, head of crime for the Office of National Statistics – the group that carried out the comprehensive crime survey – pointed out, "It has been argued that crime has not actually fallen but changed, moving to newer forms of crime not captured by the survey."
Back in 1995 – when violent crime in the U.K. was at a peak – police stations in the country were likely inundated by frequent reports of incidents like robbery, vandalism and home invasion. But these days, those traditional crimes have been usurped in terms of quantity by cyber-based incidents, which leads to crime reports like these, which are excerpts from the Crime Survey for England and Wales:
- "A bug came through an email from an unknown source and infected my computer which has caused slowing of my computer and interference with using the internet. It cannot be eradicated."
- "I had my social media hacked and had to change all my passwords. It also loaded a virus on my computer but I managed to clear it before it caused any damage."
- "Someone set up a fake account on face book [sic] in my name with my full address etc.. [sic] stealing my entire identity, including family photos, etc. They used the account to harass me and create a rift between members of my family."
These testimonials came from individuals who suffered cyberattacks. Yet in the cybercrime realm, businesses present an even more lucrative target to hackers, and therefore have the potential to suffer even greater losses.
The threat to enterprises across industries
"Hackers love their business targets, and they stage intrusions across every industry."
With crime evolving to increasingly take place online, the responsibility falls on enterprises across all industries to mount stronger network defenses. Because if there's anything that cybercrime has highlighted in the past few years, it's that hackers love their high-value targets – the ones whose networks contain lots of privileged data, and many avenues to illicit earnings. This is what makes businesses such an appealing target.
But in terms of what kind of businesses hackers like to attack, there's only one clear answer: all of them. That fact is illustrated in the Identity Theft Resource Center's Data Breach Reports – a constantly updated breach database that tracks breaches as they emerge. Every week, the ITRC compiles its up-to-date breach findings into a new report, the most recent of which was released on Oct. 13. A summary of that report revealed just how wide-ranging breach incidents have been this year in terms of chosen targets:
- Over 35 percent of breaches have hit the medical/health care sector, which has by far the largest numbers in terms of quantity of records breached (nearly 120 million).
- The business sector has suffered the largest percentage of breaches, comprising close to 40 percent of overall numbers.
- Within the educational arena, attacks on learning institutions are on the rise, and breaches involving educational organizations have resulted in more than 754,000 compromised records so far this year.
The story these numbers tell is of both the ambition and scale of vision possessed by cybercriminals operating these days. Beyond honing in on what one would consider "typical" breach targets – such as financial institutions and big businesses – hackers are looking to capitalize on targets like schools, hospitals and government agencies. Here are some of the biggest breaches to impact various industrial sectors this year:
- Health care: When it comes to cybercrime, the health care sector just can't seem to catch a break in 2015. This year, breached health care records have been responsible for more than 68 percent of total compromised records across industries. And according to one recent report, data breaches on the health care sector may be responsible for approximately $305 billion in patient revenue losses within the next five years, as Health care Informatics reported. Between 2015 and 2019, it is anticipated that a massive 25 million patients will experience stolen health care data. But we do not need to wait five years to see the impact of cybercrime on the health care industry, since this year has brought plenty of concerning attacks. In one incident, for example, Louisiana State University's Health New Orleans School of Medicine was hit by a breach that potentially made 5,000 patient records vulnerable after a hospital faculty member had his laptop stolen from his car. The information on the device belonging to the patients was highly privileged and included data like ultrasound images and results from lab tests.
- Education: Like health care, education is not the first industry to come to mind for many when you think about big targets of cybercrime. But when you think about the typical data that a school – particularly an institution of higher learning – has on its network, it is not hard to see why cybercriminals have increasingly leveraged attacks against them. Consider, for instance, the hack that took place against Harvard University earlier this year. Proving that even the Ivy League does not fall outside the purview of hackers, cybercriminals launched an attack on the prestigious institution that resulted in the IT networks for both the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Central Administration getting compromised, as Forbes reported. In the wake of the malicious event, Harvard put out a community release on July 1 stating that it had discovered the attack on June 19 and in the interim between discovery and public reporting, "has been working with external information security experts and federal law enforcement to investigate the incident, protect the information stored on our systems, and strengthen IT environments across the University."
Harvard isn't the only educational organization to experience a cyberattack and have to deal with the fallout. In August, the University of Rhode Island revealed that it had been breached in an incident that saw an individual not connected with the university compile privileged student information that included names, email addresses, dates of birth and even email passwords. In the wake of finding out about the attack, URI reported that an initial assessment had revealed that around 3,000 accounts had been compromised.
One of the concerning pieces of news to come out of the University's statement about the breach was that URI leaders did not know when the attack had taken place. In this way, URI isn't unique: All too often, the time between a breach actually occurring and it being discovered is far too long. This delay in detection invariably makes a breach worse than it would have been if it had been promptly detected.
The huge proliferation of cyberattacks and other virtual criminal incidents across industrial arenas means that every organization out there needs to evaluate its existing network security policy and prepare to adapt to an even more potent threat sphere. Though staff training in best cybersecurity practices and hiring of IT personnel with a focus on cyber issues can make a significant positive impact for organizations, businesses still need to take that next step in firming up their defenses. Managed SIEM represents a key proactive move for all companies, since it allows for prompt detection in the event of a malicious intrusion.
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