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There were 4.7 million incidents of fraud and computer misuse in the 12 months to September 2017, a 15% decrease from the previous year, according to the latest crime figures for England and Wales.
Fraud fell from 3.6 million in 2016 to 3.2 million incidents in 2017, while computer misuse dropped from 2 million incidents in 2016 to 1.5 million in 2017, according to data gathered from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) (households), and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) (business).
The fall in fraud was driven mainly by decreases in consumer and retail fraud, such as offences related to online shopping or fraudulent computer service calls, the ONS report said, while the fall in computer misuse was mainly due to a 26% fall in reported incidents of computer malware and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
However, the report also reveals that 56% of fraud incidents were cyber related, 23% of computer misuse incidents (410,000) involved loss of money or goods relating to computer malware and DDoS attacks, and computer misuse crime referred to the NFIB by Action Fraud increased by 63%.
This rise in business-related computer misuse to 21,745 offences, the report said, is largely accounted for by a 145% rise in computer malware and DDoS attacks the past year to 8,292 offences.
More specifically, this is thought to be due to a rise in levels of malware, mainly ransomware and Trojans, including several high-profile attacks and security breaches on national institutions, including the WannaCry attacks in May 2017.
The latest figures suggest that while consumer-targeted attacks might be falling, as consumer-grade security improves, cyber criminals are now shifting their gaze to the potentially more profitable enterprise sector.
Andy Waterhouse, pre-sales director for Europe at RSA Security, said UK business is facing tougher conditions than ever as cyber attackers chase greater profits.
“In this post-WannaCry world, both consumers and organisations need to do more to assess their data, identify their most valuable assets, and protect these ‘crown jewels’ as best they can through a mix of multi-factor authentication, strong and unique passwords and a greater level of education on cyber skills,” he said.
Fraser Kyne, European CTO at Bromium, said the increase in in computer misuse incidents involving business is no surprise given the spate of ransomware and Trojan attacks in the past year.
“Last year was a year of mega-breaches that made clear how far ahead the bad guys are compared to the security industry. Businesses were shut down for long periods of time, too many ransoms were paid, the bad guys got richer and the security industry looked on, often powerless, as its tools were rendered useless by new and constantly evolving techniques,” he said.
However, Kyne said it was worth noting that this the ONS figures related only to reported crime. Reports can only tell us what has been detected and reported.
“These detected events prove that things are getting in; so we must also assume that things are getting in that are remaining undetected too. This is why we need tools that can protect us from the things that we can’t see or detect,” he said.
“Cyber crime will continue to flourish as long as the security industry remains reliant on detection-based security tools. With cyber criminals becoming more successful every year, we have to admit that the detection model is broken.
“The industry must respond with new ways of defending enterprises and the public at large to ensure that we don’t see the continued rise of cyber crime.”
According to Kyne, virtualisation can provide this protection to enterprises. “By running applications within their own completely isolated virtual machine, you can ensure that any malware directed at businesses is contained to that environment, unable to escape and infect the rest of the system.”
Josh Gunnell, fraud specialist at the Callcredit Information Group, said the latest ONS statistics clearly indicate that fraud remains a threat to every organisation in the country.
“With 3.2 million incidents of fraud in England and Wales and 1.8 million being cyber related, the worrying trend shows no signs of abating,” he said.
“This is especially pertinent considering the damaging impact the ongoing fraud threat has had on trust in organisations, with a majority of consumers we spoke to believing that fraudsters are always one step ahead of businesses.
“To win back consumer confidence, which is key to long-term success, businesses need to do everything they can to keep data and identities safe. Implementing smarter, more dynamic fraud prevention strategies, such as artificial intelligence, alongside traditional fraud prevention methods – and communicating these to their customers – can go a long way towards achieving this. In addition, the importance of using behavioural and location data to provide fraud insights cannot be overstated,” he added.