Identity & Financial Theft an International Crisis

A few countries have recently been named as having the highest rates of cyber crime worldwide. The list includes Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. But organized online theft is not limited to these most attractive places. The threat of identity and financial theft is an international crisis.

Zambia

Organized cyber crime has begun targeting banks in Zambia. Account holders are warned to proceed with caution when using ATM machines in particular. Authorities reported that foreign crime rings are also training Zambian hackers in perpetrating online fraud.

Qatar

This small state has become a prime target of malware, phishing and DDoS attacks in the past year. The motivation is primarily political and financial, the country being the most prosperous in the region. Malware attacks have been recorded throughout the Gulf region, but focused on Qatar. The attacks target individuals almost exclusively. The goal is access to individual bank accounts. Some financial institutions have also been targeted and breached. The cost of security breaches is difficult to determine, but the business cost of a crippled system equates to a total loss of income and productivity for as long as the system is down. Further costs multiply depending on response times and how many people have been victimized by the spread of the infection.

South Africa

Companies and government departments in South Africa are at great risk of losing their financial security. Billions of rand are at risk of being stolen by hackers in the current state of security in the country. 80% of successful hacks have been traced to organized cyber crime. The rings are going after the financial and personal data of individuals through companies. The most vulnerable sectors are the government, banking, and telecommunications companies, which lost almost 3 billion rand to hacker theft in the past year. This does not include the additional costs of investigating the crimes, compensating consumers, and rebuilding infrastructure. Over 10,000 cases of bank account theft were reported that year with loses of almost 100 million rand. Phishing attacks and social engineering attacks through sites like Facebook are costing South Africans millions as well. Trained hackers are using dep mining techniques to bypass security features and gain access to online accounts. Cloning has become common and is now widely used on social media sites.

The United States and the United Kingdom

Four London hackers were arrested last week for attacks on Pentagon and NATO computers. They successfully stole confidential information, account passwords, and credit card data, then crashed the computer systems they had breached. Investigations revealed that the same gang had boasted of successful attacks on Sony, the FBI, and the British Serious Organized Crime Agency. The damage done by these four was called financially and personally catastrophic by the judge who heard the case. The loses sustained from their 7 month long hacking spree amount to millions of pounds. Their victims include over 26 million Sony customers, 74,000 X-Factor applicants, Arizona State police officers, News International, PBS, Nintendo, 20th Century Fox, the NHS, and other high-profile targets as suggested by the group’s Twitter followers. The group, LulzSec, acquired hacking tools freely on the internet. Three of the four were teenagers at the time the crimes were committed. One of the hackers controlled a botnet of over one million computers around the world, used for DDoS attacks.

Macau

Reported cases of cyber theft are up 55% in Macau since January alone. A lack of awareness and action on the part of individuals and businesses is mostly to blame. Suspects arrested for some of the crimes are locals, with a few from Hong Kong and mainland China. One attack manned by 17 hackers targeted a local casino. Another 4-man hack accessed casino customer data and accounts, resulting in a MOP15 million loss. Due to low awareness among individual internet users, attacks on individuals have become easy. Company employees are one major liability as they commonly take sensitive data outside the office network without knowing the consequences.

These are just a few details from the most recent cyber incident reports. But the losses are staggering, and the most affected are ordinary consumers. Lawmakers in these places have been working for years with online security experts and businesses to find ways to better secure online traffic. The progressive increase in online crime has shown that these attempts have been less than successful. Security experts are now calling in individuals to do their part to secure their online transactions. It is no longer safe to use the internet without added protection. They are increasingly backing the use of personal virtual private networks as necessary additional security for every consumer.

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