According to a recent study by ThreatMetrix, the UK is now the top target for global cyber-criminals, despite its online security being one of the strongest in the world. To understand why, we examine the six main reasons why cyber-criminals see the UK as the land of criminal opportunity.
1. We use lots of different devices
Recent figures show that 71.7 percent of mobile phone users in the UK own a smartphone, one of the highest rates of users in the world. Along with tablets, laptops and desktops, it is standard for people in the UK to regularly use multiple devices; the downside to this is that the more devices that you use to access your personal accounts, the more noise and opportunities you create for fraudsters. On a business level, the noise from employees becomes even greater.
2. We are a big wealthy target
According to Lloyds Bank financial data, the UK population has a combined wealth of £9.1 trillion. From an outsider's perspective, Britain looks like quite an attractive target for a quick pay day. What they may not know is that 66 percent of the UK population are actually operating with a negative balance and hold no positive financial assets at all, with the positive surplus of £9.1trillion being spread between the remaining 34 percent.
3. We use online lenders a lot
It's not out of the ordinary for cyber-criminals to target financial institutions; however, there has been a recent spike in the number of online lenders that have been under threat. This is largely due to online lenders regularly dispersing payments to the unbanked, who have less personal security than those who would be protected via banks.
4. We're dependent on the internet
Figures released from the ONS in May 2015 show that 86 percent of adults in the UK regularly use the internet, making it one of the most internet dependent countries in the world – but what does this mean to cyber-criminals? Well, if the majority of the UK citizens use the internet, it's a safe bet to believe that they store a lot of personal information on it too.
Cyber-criminals can use our online profiles and accounts to effectively gain access to personal funds, or simply steal and use our details for fraudulent purposes.
5. We struggle to prosecute over the border
Cyber-crimes are often committed from foreign nations, which can – due to varying jurisdiction laws – cause a lot of political barriers for governments trying to prosecute or catch cyber-criminals. For example, if the UK government wants to prosecute and investigate in China, they will have to request cooperation from their government. These requests are often ignored or take a very long time to be accepted.
This is a growing frustration for the UK National Crime Agency, which has been tasked with reducing the level of cyber-crime. In fact, it has recently called out for a global partnership when tackling these criminals, to ensure multinational investigations are swift and efficient – the opposite of what they are now.
6. We highlight our businesses mistakes
Thanks to social media, people have been given the power and freedom to spread ethically fuelled news quicker and more effectively than ever before. If an organisation morally steps out of line, a public uproar will most likely occur, followed quickly by viral news stories – all of which will be shared on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. This huge outcry will normally last until the company's mistake has been corrected.
The effects of social media on society are profoundly positive; however, it can provide fuel for hacktivists to take action and attack the organisation in question. This can be an online attack aimed at their websites, or a financial attack aimed at their pockets – whichever way they attack, cyber-criminals often use ethical wrong doings as justification to pick up their weapons.
Whilst most of the cyber-crime attacks are on financial institutions, the media industry and ecommerce businesses, it's vital to ensure you protect yourself from possible identity fraud and personal attacks. This guide which Forbes put together has some great tips on how you can avoid becoming the next victim.
Contributed by Anthony Neary, managing director of The Safe Shop