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UK tops global cyber crime hit list

UK based criminals were the second highest originators of cyber crime attacks after the US in the second quarter, according to ThreatMetrix

UK is the top target for cyber criminals with UK businesses targeted more frequently than US counterparts, a study has revealed.

Apart from local threats, criminals in Nigeria, Germany, the US and Mexico lead the way in attacking the UK, according to a study published by security firm ThreatMetrix.

But UK-based criminals were the second highest originators of cyber crime attacks after the US, according to the study, which is based on more than a billion transactions monitored each month by the firm’s Digital Identity Network.

The study shows that online commerce worldwide has been particularly badly hit by cyber crime. Fraudulent attacks rose 20% in the second quarter of 2015 in which ThreatMetrix blocked 36 million fraud attempts estimated to be worth £2bn.

Account creation fraud was the highest risk, accounting for nearly 7% of transactions blocked by ThreatMetrix, while account login risk was lower at 3%. But ThreatMetrix said that, because there are many times more login transactions processed, this represents a significant account takeover or hijacking risk.

The study also found that cyber criminals targeting financial institutions are particularly focused on the online lenders. Attacks spiked significantly in the second quarter and focused mainly on new accounts originations and payment disbursements.

Online lending is a rapid growth industry because it provides an easier way for the unbanked and underbanked to gain access to loans in a matter of days – making it a top target for cyber criminals.

According to ThreatMetrix, major UK peer-to-peer lender, Zopa, has issued £829m in loans since it started ten years ago.

“Online lending is a hotbed for fraud because it is a less secure channel designed for the unbanked and underbanked population an attractive target for attackers,” said Stephen Moody, European solutions director at ThreatMetrix.

“The more businesses and consumers turn to the digital space to store and manage their financial information, the greater the opportunity for fraudsters, and ensuring digital identities are effectively protected should be high priority for everyone,” he said.

Cyber crime is a well organised global phenomenon, said ThreatMetrix, with criminals fast adopting new technologies and tactics to attack businesses.

With sophisticated technology and strong knowledge-sharing across organised crime rings, nation states and decentralised cyber gangs, the security firm said these cyber criminals continue to attack traditional and non-traditional sources of consumer data to stitch together identities that can exploited.

Criminals hiding in the noise

Mobile now makes up one third of all transactions analysed by ThreatMetrix and is the biggest emerging opportunity and risk for businesses and financial institutions trying to deliver frictionless experiences to their customers, the company said.

“The more mobile transactions you have, the more opportunities will arise for fraudsters to conduct spoofing attacks or identity theft, by increasingly impersonating other devices to facilitate attacks,” said Moody.

“With consumers constantly on the go, they prefer iPhones over iPads after work and at the weekends – people’s digital behaviour is changing and this provides new opportunities for fraudsters to hide in the noise,” he said.

While UK-based e-commerce sites also experienced a spike in fraud attacks in the second quarter, attacks on financial services remained steady and attacks on the media industry saw a fall compared with the first three months of 2015.

However, attacks on the media industry are still fairly high, accounting for 11.4% of transactions blocked – more than double the rate in the US. According to ThreatMetrix, media sites are often targeted as testing sites for stolen credentials.

Read more about cyber crime

Rising cyber crime suggests criminal law does not deter criminals and that a better legal solution is required to prevent further rises.

Co-operation with business in the private sector is an increasingly important element in fighting cyber crime, according to UK, US and EU law enforcement officers.

Computer Weekly gets the low-down on cyber crime from law enforcement officers and investigators.



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