How the UK is losing the cyber crime war

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has issued a stark warning to everyone who operates online – internet criminals are winning the “cyber arms race”.

So are any of us safe online anymore?

The UK’s cyber crime problem

2015 was a big year for cyber crime, with 2.46 million “cyber incidents” including 700,000 frauds, and the NCA has admitted the technical capabilities of criminal gangs are outpacing the authorities ability to deal with the threat.

What makes this more alarming is the biggest that despite the volume of cyber attacks taking place, the biggest threat is coming from just “a few hundred” criminals.

And it’s not just homegrown criminals we need to worry about, as a key threat to the UK comes from international crime syndicates, some of which are so advanced they run call centres, complete with translators.

So what is the government doing about this serious security threat?

The challenge of cyber crime

The government has ring-fenced £1.9 billion that it will spend on cyber-defence over the next five years.

As well as working with internet service companies to block online attacks, part of this expenditure will go on a National Cyber Security Centre – but will it be enough?

A statement from the NCA highlights the extent of problem: “Cybercriminals targeting the UK include international serious organised crime groups as well as smaller-scale, mostly domestic, criminals and hacktivists.

“The NCA assesses that the most advanced and serious cyber crime threat to the UK is the direct or indirect result of activity by a few hundred international cyber criminals, typically operating in organised groups, who target UK businesses to commit highly profitable malware-facilitated fraud.

“These cyber-attacks include attacks directly targeting business systems and attacks against individuals.”

And it seems this is a threat that’s going to get worse before it gets better.

The NCA statement added: “This ‘cyber arms race’ is likely to be an enduring challenge, and an effective response requires collaborative action from government, law enforcement, industry regulators and, critically, business leaders.”

A problem for everyone

Although the figures put out by the NCA show how big a problem it faces, it concedes the true scale of criminality is likely to be far bigger because of “a serious problem” of under-reporting.

It is urging businesses to report any instances of cybercrime and share any intelligence, “both with law enforcement and with each other”.

In response to the threat, the UK government plans a new National Cyber Security Centre, as well as working with internet service companies to block online attacks.

The most common types of cyber crimes are:

Consumer crime

  1. Phishing: bogus emails asking for security information and personal details
  2. Webcam manager: a terrifying  attack where criminals takeover your webcam
  3. File hijacker: where criminals hijack files and hold them to ransom
  4. Keylogging: a way of getting password information where criminals record what you type on your keyboard
  5. Screenshot manager: allows criminals take screenshots of your computer screen
  6. Ad clicker: allows a criminal to direct a victim’s computer to click a specific link

Business crime

  1. Hacking
  2. Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks

If you have an incident to report contact Action Fraud here, or call 0300 123 2040

You can find out more about the National Cyber Crime Unit here.

And check out the related posts below to find out more on cyber crime and how to safeguard against it.

Image: “Junk the cyber crime law” by Elizabeth Jenkins on Flickr.

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