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Cybercrime: In the Bleak Mid Winter

Updated: Mar 5

Why Cybercrime is set to increase in 2023.

I’ll start by saying that this is not going to be a fairy tale with a happy ending. The future of cybercrime is that it will undoubtedly continue to rise in 2023 and beyond.

I could bore you with all the statistics and 'annual reviews' about the current landscape, but do you really need me to do that? Isn't that a bit... boring?!

If you're interested in 'stats', then please go Google "Cybercrime Stats 2022" and come back when you're finished.

Done? Ok... let's get on with this.

This year I've spoken to people who have had their lives turned upside down and inside out, following a data breach or cyber attack. Some live in fear of what will happen to them personally or professionally following an attack.

Note the word... 'Attack'. It is not a Cyber 'incident', or Cyber 'event'... when people are affected by incidents or events, they feel attacked. The definition of the word 'attack' is "an aggressive and violent act against a person or place."

We are in the midst of a ‘bleak midwinter’, and the snow is deep and set to be with us for some time.

Let's start with the basics

Let’s start by being clear about what we mean by Cybercrime.

Cybercrime refers to criminal activities that are committed using the internet or other forms of digital communication. It encompasses a wide range of offences, including hacking, identity theft, fraud, and online harassment. In truth, there is really only two kinds of Cybercrime – Cyber Dependent crime and Cyber Enable Crime.

Cyber Dependent crime is a crime which could not be carried out if a computer (or digital device) was not involved. For example, Ransomware cannot happen in the ‘real world’.

Cyber-Enabled crime is a crime which has greater reach and effect through the use of technology. Examples include fraud, stalking and sexual abuse.

The Era of Cybercrime

The rise of the internet and the increasing reliance on digital technology have created new opportunities for criminals to commit crimes and evade detection. Cybercriminals can operate from anywhere in the world and target victims across national borders, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute these crimes.

The Law is a lumbering beast, and just as in the wild west of old, laws are regionally based, and jurisdictions are clearly known and understood by the organised criminal gangs now operating with virtual impunity.

One of the most common forms of cybercrime is identity theft, in which criminals steal personal information, such as names, addresses, and credit card numbers, to commit fraud or other illegal activities. These crimes can have devastating consequences for victims, who may suffer financial loss, damage to their reputations, and emotional distress.

When we read of data breaches, we often forget that these are real PEOPLE that we’re talking about. It’s not just ‘emails and passwords’, it’s a real person with real problems and a life that exists beyond their digital self. If you ever want to get people to see or think about Cybersecurity differently, get them to see this one point; it might change people's perspective.

Of course, another common form of cybercrime is hacking, in which criminals gain unauthorized access to computer systems or networks to steal sensitive information or disrupt operations. Hacking can be carried out by individuals or organised criminal groups

and can have far-reaching consequences for organizations and governments.

Around ten years ago, I remember telling a Board of directors that the Russian Mafia and other organised criminal gangs would change their business model and focus on our digital universe. I was almost laughed out of the room, but today this is very much where we are. Organised Cybercrime groups are highly professional, proficient and skilled.

They know that law enforcement is struggling to enforce regional laws on a global issue. Until the law catches up, virtually and physically, I don’t see this problem going away any time soon.

In addition to these more traditional forms of cybercrime, social media and other online platforms have also given rise to new forms of online harassment and abuse. This can include cyberbullying, online stalking, and the dissemination of non-consensual intimate images, which can have serious psychological and emotional effects on victims.

The recent Channel 4 show “I am Ruth” highlighted social media's impact on our lives, especially on younger people. The show highlighted the negative effects that social media has, but the truth is far darker than this show highlighted and is far darker than I am willing to discuss in this piece.

All I would ask the reader to do is what we should always do; Consider the worst-case scenario for social media users: How can social media be weaponised and used against us? What are the threats, vulnerabilities and impact?

Believe me when I say that I work with Cybertrauma specialists who are telling me stories that make the dark web look like the Disney channel.

Cybercrime - A Global Impact

The impact of cybercrime is not limited to individual victims. It can also have significant economic and social costs for businesses, governments, and society as a whole.

For example, companies may suffer financial losses as a result of cyber-attacks and may also face reputational damage and loss of customer trust. Governments may also incur costs related to investigating and prosecuting cybercriminals and may face challenges in protecting critical infrastructure and national security.

If you want to destabilise or overthrow a government, you could try and organise a coup. Or you could simply attack the national banking sector and national infrastructure and watch it implode.

Conclusion: Is there a “Happily ever after”?

Let me say that I am a ‘glass half full’ kind of person… I am a pessimistic optimist. That means I believe things are always going to be bad, but there is something we can do about it!

I believe it takes individual accountability and responsibility to combat cybercrime. It will take a combination of legal, technical, and educational measures. Governments, businesses, and individuals all have a role to play in protecting themselves and others from these threats.

On the legal front, it is important for governments to develop and enforce laws that specifically address cybercrime and to provide law enforcement agencies with the necessary tools and resources to investigate and prosecute these offences. International cooperation is also essential in tackling cybercrime, as criminals often operate across national borders.

From a technical perspective, developing and implementing effective cybersecurity measures are crucial in protecting against cyber attacks. This can include using strong passwords, regular software updates, and deploying security technologies, such as firewalls and encryption.

Finally, education and awareness-raising are key in preventing individuals from becoming victims of cybercrime. This can include educating individuals about safe online practices, such as avoiding suspicious websites and emails, and teaching them how to recognize and report cybercrime.

Cybercrime is a complex and evolving threat that requires a coordinated response from governments, businesses, and individuals. By implementing strong legal, technical, and educational measures, we can help combat this problem and create a safer and more secure online environment

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