Ransomware eclipsed most other forms of cybercrime as on-line crime surged in 2017, European policing agency Europol said on Wednesday, citing high-profile attacks such as ‘WannaCry’ that reached millions of computers.
Europol coordinated several successful cross-border operations against cybercriminals last year.
But national authorities urgently need to devote more resources to targeting the developers of hacking tools, the agency’s head said.
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Ransomware eclipsed most other forms of cybercrime as on-line crime surged in 2017, European policing agency Europol said on Wednesday, citing high-profile attacks such as ‘WannaCry’ that reached millions of computers. Stock image
THE TOP THREATS
A new report from the European policing agency Europol warned national authorities urgently need to devote more resources to targeting the developers of hacking tools.
The report highlighted a number of growing threats, including:
- Data breaches
- The Darknet
- Payment fraud
- Direct attacks on bank networks
‘The last year has been exceptional, given the size and the type and the range of the attacks that we’ve seen,’ Europol director Rob Wainwright said, detailing an annual review of Internet crime threats.
‘Growing sophistication in the cybercrime community’, where criminal groups band together to deliver ‘cybercrime services’, is becoming the major engine of growth in online crime undertaken for illegal profit, he said.
Ransomware ‘has eclipsed most other cyber-threats. ..indiscriminately affecting victims across multiple industries in both the public and private sectors,’ the report said.
The 80-page report also named data breaches, darknet markets, extortion of youth for child pornography and payment fraud as growing threat areas.
It also notes the threat of direct attacks on bank networks, which could be used to manipulate card balances, take control of ATMs or directly transfer funds.
Wainwright said Europol is setting up a special unit to fight darkmarket operations, where credit card information is increasingly being sold in addition to drugs, impacting the retail, airline and hotel industries.
‘The global impact of huge cyber security events such as the WannaCry ransomware epidemic has taken the threat from cybercrime to another level,’ Wainwright said.
The 80-page report also named data breaches, darknet markets, extortion of youth for child pornography and payment fraud as growing threat areas. It also notes the threat of direct attacks on bank networks. Stock image
‘Banks and other major businesses are now targeted on a scale not seen before and, while Europol and its partners in policing and Industry have enjoyed success in disrupting major criminal syndicates operating online, the collective response is still not good enough.
‘In particular people and companies everywhere must do more to better protect themselves.’
Despite the increase in threats, the report also notes ‘tremendous operational successes’ in fighting cybercrime.
THE WANNACRY ATTACK
In May 2017, a massive ransomware virus attack spread to the computer systems of hundreds of private companies and public organisations across the globe.
The software locked computers and asked for a digital ransom before control is safely returned.
In just a few hours, the malware had already infected victims in at least 74 countries, including Russia, Turkey, Germany, Vietnam, and the Philippines – and was estimated to be spreading at a rate of five million emails per hour.
Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries in England were forced to turn away patients and cancel appointments after the attack crippled the NHS.
The WannaCry virus targeted Microsoft’s widely used Windows operating system.
The virus encrypts certain files on the computer and then blackmails the user for money in exchange for the access to the files.
It leaves the user with only two files: Instructions on what to do next and the Wanna Decryptor program itself.
The hackers asked for payments of around £230 ($300) in Bitcoin.
When opened the software tells users that their files have been encrypted and gives them a few days to pay up or their files will be deleted.
It can quickly spread through an entire network of computers in a business or hospital, encrypting files on every PC.
This includes taking down two of the largest Darknet markets, AlphaBay and Hansa, dismantling the Avalanche network.
According to the experts, the report highlights a need for improved methods of handling cyberattacks, as the threat continues to grow.
‘This report shows online crime is the new frontier of law enforcement,’ said Julian King, EU Commissioner for the security union.
‘We’ve all seen the impact of events like WannaCry: whether attacks are carried out for financial or political reasons, we need to improve our resilience and ensure cybercrime does not pay.’