Cybercrime in Statistics: The History, the Records, and Safety Tips You Need to Know

Hacking, malware, viruses – we all know the language of cybercrime, but how much do you actually know about it? 

Cybercrime and the fight against it have become big business and a major focus from governments around the world. The current war in Ukraine has shown us that battles will rage online as well as on the ground in future conflicts. 

Knowing the history and scale of cybercrime will help you understand what’s been going on in the world and how to keep yourself safe. To get you up to speed on this, we’re going to look at:

  • The first time cybercrimes happened and how they’ve developed since;
  • The biggest cybercrimes ever committed;
  • Some of the costs associated with cybercrime;
  • How different countries respond to cybercrime.

And we’ll finish by giving you our top 5 tips on how to stay safe out on the world wide web. 

Cybercrime Firsts 

In the age of the internet, everything can be tracked down. From criminals to the crimes they commit, there will always be a log, whether that makes you happy or not!

Here are some of the first know cybercrimes:

  • The first hacker was a Vietnam war veteran in the USA. In 1971 he was able to game his phone connection to get free phone calls. To do this, he had to whistle down the phone line at a specific frequency to trigger AT&T to not charge his bill.
  • The first ransomware attack dates back to 1989. Dr. Joseph Popp handed out 20,000 infected floppy disks – remember them?! – at a World Health Organization conference. Once inserted into a computer, on the 90th booth the user would be asked to send cash to a Panamanian PO box in return for decrypting computer data.
  • The first phishing attacks were on AOL customers. Phishing is when cybercriminals pretend to be a trusted company to get you to reveal personal information. The AOL phishers pretended to be the tech company and get users to reveal their email passwords so the accounts could be taken over. 
  • The first DDoS attack was the brainchild of a teenager. DDoS, or distributed denial of service, attacks take down a website by bombarding it with traffic. In 2000, a 15-year-old out of Canada was able to shut down huge websites like Amazon and eBay from his bedroom, causing an estimated $1.7 billion in damage. 

Biggest Cybercrimes Ever Committed

With more than 1 billion malware programs out there, attacks against people and businesses are all too common. There are attacks that stand out from the pack for affecting vast swathes of people and devices. 

Let’s check out some of the biggest cybercrimes ever committed:

  • The most computers affected by an attack was probably the WannaCry ransomware. It started in 2017 and is estimated to have infected over 200,000 computers including the UK’s National Health Service, Honda, and Renault. Victims were asked to pay in Bitcoin to decrypt their systems, although few did and Microsoft quickly released a patch. 
  • The biggest ransom ever paid for ransomware was paid out by CNA Financial in March 2021. The insurance company was hit by the Phoenix CryptoLocker ransomware and paid out $40 million. REvil demanded $70 million for an attack on online security firm Kaseya but refused to pay. 
  • The biggest government data breach was probably an attack on the US federal government in 2015. A voter database was hacked and 191 million people’s records were exposed online, including who they voted for. 
  • The biggest attack on a private company affected 3 billion – that’s not a typo, billion – people. Internet giant Yahoo was a hack in 2012 and a massive chunk of user data was exposed, although data like banking records and passwords weren’t stolen. 

Cybercrime by Numbers 

Hacks can have huge costs, either from the ransoms that get paid or the clean-up operation after. There is big money in the cybersecurity industry, so what do these hacks cost and how much do we spend trying to prevent them?

We’re going to look at some of the most shocking and eye-opening numbers related to cybercrime:

  • Ransomware is getting costly, with the average payout by a company jumping 82% between 2020 and 2021, according to Unit 42. In real terms, that’s an increase from $312,000 to $570,000 per payout – 2019 to 2020 saw a huge 171% jump!
  • The average ransomware demand is dramatically increasing, too we’re told in the same report. In 2020, businesses could expect to be asked for $847,000 while in 2021 that leaped to $5.3 million or a 518% uplift in what hackers see as the value of their disruption. 
  • Ransomware money invariably goes to Russia. Around 74% of ransomware paid through cryptocurrency goes to Russia, which equates to around $400 million. Nearly 10% of all ransoms are paid to one gang, known as Evil Corp.
  • Cybercrime cost businesses $1.79 million per minute in 2021, while the average breach experienced by a business will cost $7.20 per minute, RiskIQ’s Evil Internet Minute report calculated. 
  • Cryptocurrency scams cost people $3,615 per minute while payment fraud to e-commerce sites lost on average $38,052 per minute, says RiskIQ. This is a cost that eventually ends up affecting consumers through higher prices to cover losses.

Cybercrime by Country

News about cybercrime will usually kick up the same few country names: Russia, China, North Korea. Cybercrime related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been well-reported but links between online crime and the country have been around for years, as we’ve seen. 

We’re going to look at how these countries fit into the cybercrime landscape and how other nations are tackling the issues:

  • The country responsible for the most DDoS attacks is China. A Cloudflare report puts the USA in second place with Brazil taking the third spot. 
Source: GovTech
  • China and Russia are the sources of most cyberattacks. More than two-thirds of geopolitical attacks originated in one of these two countries. This type of attack is on the rise, too, with a 440% increase in attacks between 2009 and 2018.
  • People from India are the most likely to be affected by cybercrime. People in the United States are the second most likely to be a victim of cybercrime, with New Zealand in third place. 
  • The country least prepared for cyberattacks is Myanmar, based on a range of indicators. Cambodia is nearly as vulnerable and Honduras is the third country that’s least prepared to deal with an online attack. 
  • The country most prepared for a cyberattack is Denmark, on the flipside. Germany and the USA come in a close second and third place in terms of being ready to counter an online attack. 
  • Spending on cybercrime is increasing globally. The US Department of Homeland Security had a $2.6 billion dollar budget in 2021 and the Department of Defense planned to spend $9.85 billion on cybersecurity alone. 

How To Prevent Cyber Attacks

That’s pretty scary reading, right? 

Cybercrime is huge and getting bigger and you, your employer, or your business needs to be ready for it. You don’t need multimillion-dollar budgets to stay protected, but you do need to be on the ball. 

Our top five tips to help prevent cybercrime are:

  1. Use a VPN to mask your computer’s IP address. This stops hackers from being able to track your location and follow your activity. With a simple Surfshark download, you get fast protection from malware attacks.  
  2. Have a proxy to add a layer of protection between your computer and the internet. It can be set to filter out suspicious phishing emails and stop you from connecting to sites that have malware on them. 
  3. Stay up to date with all of your devices. When there is an attack, companies like Microsoft and Apple will release a security update to counter it so make sure your operating system on your computer, phone, and other devices, are all caught up. 
  4. Be vigilant about common scams and attacks. Some of the biggest cybercrimes started with a human error such as old passwords or clicking on dodgy emails. Know online safety best practices and stick to them. 
  5. Use trusted sites from legitimate sources. Be suspicious of links that get emailed to you and try and access your banking and shopping websites by typing in their website address directly. This will stop you from landing on a copycat site. 

What You Need To Know About Cybercrime

Online can be a great place where you can buy everything your heart desires, connect with loved ones, and earn your living. It’s also a scary place with people ready to try and attack you and your employer or business. 

Being armed with information about what cyberattacks look like and how they affect the world is a great step to staying protected. A few simple steps can help shelter you from the worst of what’s happening online and keep your personal information safe.

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