Never a Better Time to be a Digital Thief

The more you share, the easier you are to target

Mass data, huge digital landscapes and ever-growing numbers of personal devices. . . there’s never been a better time to be a digital thief. This has been made very evident by the sheer number of cyberattacks to have hit corporations and individuals in the last few years. Following high profile hacks of companies including Hilton Hotels, TalkTalk and JD Wetherspoon, corporates are finally waking up to cybercrime.

Despite an awareness of digital theft and ways of avoiding it, technological developments have only aided digital thieves accelerating levels of cybercrime. The more data we share and the more personal devices we have, the easier we are to target.

How do digital thieves use tech?

The owners of casinos usually expect to make more money than they dish out. However, in the summer of 2014, Lumiere Place Casino in St. Louis suffered a string of plays in which slot machines gave more than they got. They weren’t the only ones experiencing negative hold, and after analysing security tapes from numerous U.S. casinos, the culprits were identified. A team of Russian hackers from St. Petersburg were recording spins via smartphones and figuring out patterns, which is difficult – but possible. As well as using smartphones in their operations, hackers have benefitted massively from our obsession with personal devices. Tablet sales may have dropped, but smartphones are as popular as ever. Many of us use our phones as PAs, storing extensive personal info.

Sometimes, it’s all about the money. In November 2016, Tesco Bank customers lost over $3 million in a high-profile cyberattack that infiltrated the supermarket’s central computer system. Cybercriminals aren’t always interested in monetary gain, though. Some of them simply want to prove a point. On New Year’s Eve in 2015, the BBC faced a Denial of Service attack which blocked access for intended users and completely messed up the media company’s schedule. Whilst these sorts of attacks don’t directly steal money or information, they are incredibly costly to put right. Similarly, a hacker known as ‘Stackoverflowin’ played havoc with approximately 160,000 printers without sufficient firewall security, making them print tame remarks and commands. Victim reactions were mixed – some were confused and worried, whilst others were merely impressed. It becomes less amusing when you consider the impact of a mass hack on 3D printers.

How are digital thieves disrupting businesses and society

It’s becoming more difficult for businesses to protect the amount of data they deal with. Digital theft is causing companies across the scale real issues, from retail banks to restaurant chains. You don’t need to be a big tech firm to catch the eye of cybercriminals – in fact, SMEs are easy targets because they don’t expect to be threatened and do little to secure their data. The obvious effect of digital theft is that victims lose money. A small team of casino hackers, for example, can swindle up to $250,000 in just a week.

Finance aside, businesses can experience a loss of trust and a negative image. Would you jump to open a bank account with Tesco after the 2016 hack? Probably not. Another important effect on businesses targeted by digital theft is the cost of damage control. Even the printer hack, which wasn’t exactly malevolent, was likely to have had serious detrimental effects on important operations. However, companies and individuals don’t have to be sitting ducks, waiting for inevitable cyberattacks. By updating digital security and creating multiple layers, businesses are better placed to navigate the digital world. It’s just as important for individuals, too. In fact, a new £20 million cyber curriculum scheme has just been set up to teach 5,700 teenagers how to defend against online threats and digital theft.

The key to protecting against digital theft is realising that there’s an incredible ROI. It’s worth investing in up-to-date security, because it strengthens companies against digital plagues that thrive on vulnerability. Vital data stored in the digital sphere will continue to attract unwanted attention, but this could mean a decrease in traditional violent crime. It may be ironic that the tech we willingly adopt is making us more vulnerable, however the recognition of digital theft as a real, immediate issue will make life far more difficult for cybercriminals.

Do you feel as if your business is threatened by digital thieves? Should all businesses be required to meet certain cybersecurity standards? Could an increase in digital theft lead to decreased physical theft? Share your thoughts and opinions.

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