The internet represents the very best and worst of human nature, and cybercrime is a fine example of the latter. An ever-evolving roster of threats circulates in cyberspace, from worms and viruses to the efforts of hackers and fraudsters. An estimated 17 million UK residents fell victim to some form of cybercrime in 2017, which earned its perpetrators $1.5 trillion globally last year. Frighteningly, that figure is expected to quadruple within two years.
A bulwark against this barrage of malware and malicious behaviour is provided by cybersecurity. This is defined as any hardware, software or processes designed to repel activities like malware, phishing or DDoS server attacks. It also includes cryptocrime, such as last month’s theft of $40 million in bitcoin from the Binance cryptocurrency exchange. Ransomware is the fastest-growing type of cybercrime, potentially set to cost the global economy over 50 times more in 2021 than it did in 2015. Another growth industry is crypto jacking, where hackers commandeer computer resources to mine cryptocurrencies, effectively stopping the device from doing anything else.
Understanding cybersecurity involves a basic appreciation of which targets and industries tend to be targeted. Perhaps inevitably, the most vulnerable market sector is financial services. Cybercrime as a Service (CaaS) is on the rise, outsourcing fraud and theft to professionals who can fully utilise the latest hardware and software, although hacking tools for basic malware and identity theft cost less than a pound online.
All this comes at a time when our lives are inextricably intertwined with digital services. Streaming media platforms, social media accounts, and ecommerce represent three examples of society’s reliance on internet services. Indeed, avoiding the internet has become as impractical as never leaving home: it is possible, but life becomes very restricted.
Leading the fight back
Cybercrime has spiralled in response to burgeoning numbers of internet users (four billion worldwide, set to reach six billion by 2022), and cybersecurity has evolved accordingly. This industry’s total value has increased 40-fold in the last 15 years, with estimated annual increases of 12-15 per cent anticipated in the coming years. Companies are belatedly reinforcing their IT services to prevent further high-profile hacks like those on Marriott, Yahoo, Equifax, LinkedIn, and numerous other industries. At UK2.NET, we’ve always taken our responsibilities very seriously; our international network of data centres is highly secure and constantly monitored, while products like SiteLock protect our customers’ websites against brute force attack, malware and hackers alike.
However, it’s wrong to assume cybersecurity is entirely the responsibility of big business. Private individuals also have a key role to play:
- Online account passwords should always be lengthy alphanumeric character strings, written down in a notebook and never shared between accounts.
- Don’t conduct financial transactions over unsecured WiFi networks in public areas, or where people might be watching. Use hardwired devices in domestic networks.
- Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails, or open attachments without ensuring the message is genuine. Ignore unexpected SMS and social media messages, too.
- Replace the default passwords on broadband routers – not just for WiFi logins, but also the administrator login credentials. Online guides explain how to do this.
- Install robust antivirus software on PCs, with permission to monitor live activities and automatically update its databases. Back up data in the cloud, or on external devices.
- Prevent identity theft by shredding paperwork with personally identifiable information on it, and turning on biometric logins on mobile devices where possible.
- Always log out of ecommerce or financial websites, especially when using shared machines. Keep electronic devices closely guarded at all times outside the home.