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Cybercrime in 2021: is it on the rise?

Cybercrime in 2021 dominates the headlines. The massive hack of SolarWinds and the vulnerabilities exploited in both Microsoft Exchange Server and Accellion’s file sharing software continue to result in data exposure and theft.

Hacks of federal networks and utilities call into question the government’s ability to protect the best interests of citizens. Breaches and ransomware attacks carried out against small businesses and healthcare institutions put personal data at risk. Hackers repeatedly victimize schools and universities. Cybercriminals cause damage that is both far reaching and widespread. Their crimes rarely result in capture or prosecution because of how hard it is to track them down.

Cybercrime in 2021 is rising exponentially

Cybercrime is an existential threat for businesses and institutions of all sizes. Data indicates that it is on track to continue to grow to alarming proportions. According to a study conducted by Cybersecurity Ventures:

  • The world will spend a staggering $6 trillion USD in 2021 to cover damages resulting from cybercrime.
  • Cybercrime will cost the world $10.5 trillion USD annually by the year 2025.
  • Sophisticated international cybercrime groups are pooling their resources and joining forces.
  • Cybercrime is on track to become the world’s third-largest economy.

What is causing cybercrime growth?

Opportunities for new criminal activity are on the rise as the world becomes increasingly connected and automated. Here are five major factors contributing to the growth of cybercrime in 2021:

1. The COVID-19 pandemic

Due to social distancing rules, COVID-19 has forced companies into the uncharted territory of remote working. Many security measures were relaxed to allow for employees to work easily from their homes. Tight cybersecurity has become more complex and harder to maintain as a result. Work from home policies were enacted quickly, but in many cases security measures were tacked on afterwards. This allowed time for cybercriminals to probe for weakness and discover vulnerabilities.

2. Cybercrime keeps evolving

Phishing schemes have doubled in frequency over the last year correlating with the increase in work done over email. However, as users become more savvy, hackers continue to develop creative ways to catch them off guard. Forbes reports that their team of cybersecurity experts witnessed a tactic that shows users a graphic of what appears to be a hair on their screen. When users touch the graphic to brush the “hair” away, malware is automatically downloaded onto their device.

3. More people are online now than ever before

Scams are a numbers game. The fact that so many people use connected devices daily has worked in the hackers’ favor because a large amount of targets means increased likelihood of success. More potential victims also provide a larger pool of data for criminals to draw from in order to focus on what scams work the best.

4. Cybercriminals can make a lot of money

There is money to be made from a successful scheme. A 2018 study found that the highest earning cybercriminals at that time were able to make up to $2 million in illegal income a year. Any time a business owner gives in to the demands of a ransomware attack, that money goes directly into the pockets of criminals.

5. Cybercriminals are rarely caught

According to some reports, as few as 5% of cybercriminals are ever apprehended. Those that get caught usually do so not because of superior law enforcement, but because they made an error and revealed themselves. The majority of cybercrime is also actually never reported to the authorities in the first place, which makes it attractive for those looking for schemes that are easy to get away with.

How to do your part to fight cybercrime in 2021

The majority of cyber attacks are carried out against small companies and individuals because they are not properly protected. In 2020 alone, hacks against small and medium businesses increased by a staggering 424%. Many large scale attacks take place only after criminals gather the data they need from poorly protected sources. This means data security is critical from the bottom up. Here’s what you can do to keep your data and information safe:

  • Used and refurbished firewalls are an economical and powerful way to help secure your network. Seriously consider purchasing a dedicated hardware firewall to protect against prying eyes.
  • Update frequently. Operating system and antivirus software creators try to stay ahead of the bad guys. Set up automatic updates and heed any recommendations that may come up in between.
  • Create strong passwords. Password generators found online can create randomized login credentials. Strong passwords make it much harder to access your network without authorization.
  • Set up multi factor authentication wherever possible. The more obstacles between the bad guys and your data, the better!
  • Use a Virtual Private Network to keep your online activity confidential.
Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn is a freelance research-based technical writer. He has worked as a content QA analyst for AT&T and Pernod Ricard.

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