Exclusive: How prepared are you to deal with the increase in cybercrime? The number of cyberattacks has significantly increased in 2021. According to Check Point, cyber-attacks escalated by 29% globally in the first half of 2021. In 2020, data breaches exposed approximately 36B records.
If you don’t want your business or personal information compromised, now is the time to take action. Though cybercrime is nothing new, everyone today is undeniably concerned with the rise of cyberattacks, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Security Intelligence, the top industries targeted in cyber crimes in 2020 are finance and insurance, manufacturing, energy, retail, and professional services. In recent cyber attacks, government, healthcare, media, and education were also the most targeted sectors.
Figure 1: Top Industries Targeted
For the last couple of months, I have been actively researching and reading about the rise of cyber security attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you dive deep into recently published scientific studies and statistics, you will agree that cybercrime is indeed a fast-growing global problem.
Whether you are a Fortune 500 enterprise, health organization, cybersecurity expert, small enterprise, or an average internet user, the current state of cybercrime profoundly deserves your genuine concern.
What is Cybercrime?
Instead of typing a simple definition that you can find anywhere on the web, let me briefly highlight the untold history of cybercrime.
The mastermind behind the first self-replicating computer program is not documented in the public domain. However, the first internet worm (Creeper) was created by Thomas Bob in 1971. According to Alexandrou (2021), Bob was an engineer at Raytheon BBN Technologies, an American company.
The high-tech research and development company played a vital role in developing packet switching technology, including the Internet. The Creeper worm’s theme was “I AM THE CREEPER: CATCH ME IF YOU CAN!”
In 1988, the Morris worm infected more than 6,000 computers (Alexandrou, 2021). Robert Tappan Morris developed the self-replicating program. Morris was a Cornell University graduate student dismissed from MIT. He was later prosecuted for developing and releasing Morris worm, the first internet worm.
Morris defended himself that this was his intellectual venture to measure the size of ARPANET, internet of then. However, a design flaw triggered the program to replicate itself, disabling thousands of systems.
From 1999 to 2007, various computer viruses and worms were documented. The major ones include Melisa Virus, Kiez worm, Mydoom worm, and ZeuS Trojan Horse.
What is Malware?
Malware is a program that performs harmful system actions when executed. In most cases, the user is not aware of the program’s executions. Yisrael Radai coined this term in 1990 to help users differentiate malware from a computer virus. Viruses, worms, adware, trojans, and logic bombs are unique malware variants.
What is a Ransomware?
A ransomware is a malicious program or malware that prevents users from accessing their systems, computer files, or networks. Ransomware attackers demand ransom to decrypt encrypted files or systems. However, you are not guaranteed that the encrypted files will be decrypted once you pay the ransom.
Cyber Security Trends during COVID-19 Pandemic
Top cyber security incidents between 2017 and 2021 include Petya Ransomware, Ransomware WannaCry, and COVID-19 cyber threats.
Table 1: Trends
|Cyber Threat||Petya Ransomware||WannaCry Ransomware||COVID-19 Cyber Attacks|
|Target Industries||The ransomware was discovered in Ukraine in 2017. It targeted Microsoft products and spread to 60+ countries.||The 2017 ransomware mainly targeted the healthcare industry. It infected more than 300K computers in 150+ countries.||According to INTERPOL, hospitals, public institutions, and medical centers were mainly targeted in ransomware attacks during COVID-19.|
|Summary Implications||Infected more than 12,500 computers. Encrypted files and demanded ransom.||The most frequent crypto-ransomware attack between 2019-2020. The estimated financial cost of the attacks exceed £5.9 million.||The ransmoware attacks mainly targeted overwhelmed health organizations, sensitive data, and vaccine information during COVID-19 pandemic.|
In the wake of COVID-19, what did cyberattacks target?
Chatham House conducted a study in 2021 to investigate whether COVID-19 is changing the landscape of cybercrime. According to the study, COVID-19 ushered cybercriminals with new opportunities and vulnerabilities to exploit and execute malicious attacks. Most of these cyber-attacks targeted medical organizations and research institutions.
The study highlights how various internal servers of a University Hospital in Germany were attacked and interrupted by cyber attacks. The systems of the hospital went down, and emergency patients had to be turned away. These incidents highlight the extent to which cybercrime threatens national security, the global economy, and human security.
The Cybersecurity Act was designed to combat the growing threat of cyber attacks, but is it enough? COVID-19 triggered a considerable uptick in digital crimes. Fortune 500 companies have been targets for hackers looking to access their valuable data.
Health organizations have also fallen victim to these malicious attacks, disrupting care delivery or even leading to life-threatening consequences. Financial and insurance institutions are equally not spared.
Small businesses are not immune either; they too must take precautions against cyber attacks to protect and secure their information from compromise. As a corporate or individual, you must heed security agencies, government agencies, cybersecurity experts, and relevant parties.
Cybercrime is real, ignore at your peril. Your personal information is at risk when any organization that holds your data is hacked! Your computer, tablet, smartphone, and more devices are also prone to cyber-attacks.
So what can we do?
The solution may be as simple as updating your antivirus software or downloading an anti-malware program for protection and security. According to Varonis, 95% of cyber security threats are linked to human error. Enhance your security by regularly changing your passwords, downloading software from trusted platforms, and backing up sensitive data.
INTERPOL recommends that users regularly scan their computers, use anti-virus programs on mobile devices and computers, and teach their family and friends about online safety.
I just did my part, spread the message. Let your voice be heard in the fight against cyber security threats.
From where I sit, I’m optimistic that this exclusive post strengthens online safety awareness and inspires many individuals and enterprises to take more precautionary measures against cyber security threats and vulnerabilities.
Alexandrou, A. (2021). Cybercrime and Information Technology: Theory and Practice: The Computer Network Infrastructure and Computer Security, Cybersecurity Laws, Internet of Things (IoT), and Mobile Devices (1st ed.). CRC Press. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429318726
Check Point. (2021). Ransomware Exploits and Supply Chain Attacks Lead the Cyber Trends in the First Half of 2021. Cyber Attack Trends – 2021 Mid Year Report. https://pages.checkpoint.com/cyber-attack-2021-trends.html
Chatham House. (2021). The COVID-19 pandemic and trends in technology: Transformations in Governace and Society. Chatham House. https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/02/covid-19-pandemic-and-trends-technology/03-covid-19-changing-cybercrime-landscape
Chigada, J., & Madzinga, R. (2021). Cyberattacks and threats during COVID-19: A systematic literature review. South African Journal of Information Management, 23(1), 1-11. http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v23i1.1277
FAL Bulletin No. 382. (2020). Cybersecurity in the time of COVID-19 and the transition to cyberimmunity. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Carribean. https://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362/46511/1/S2000678_en.pdf
INTERPOL. (2021). COVID-19 cyberthreats. https://www.interpol.int/en/Crimes/Cybercrime/COVID-19-cyberthreats
Varonis. (2021). 134 Cybersecurity Statistics and Trends for 2021. Data Security. https://www.varonis.com/blog/cybersecurity-statistics/