Cybercrime, in the form of high-profile ransomware campaigns, have grown significantly in the last year, according to The National Crime Agency UK (NCA).

The NCA says this type of online crime continues to rise in complexity and scales, affecting essential services, businesses and individuals. This is costing the UK billions of pounds every year, causing damage and even posing a threat to national security.

Cybercrime continues to rise in scale and complexity, affecting essential services, businesses and private individuals alike. Cybercrime costs the UK billions of pounds, causes untold damage, and threatens national security.

Increase in teen cybercrime

More young people, the NCA reports, are getting involved with cybercrime as they use their computer literacy to develop ways of committing personal identity theft. Gone are the days when teenagers committed petty crime like stealing sweets from the corner store. The NCA appeals to parents to have a conversation with our children to help them make the right choices. It says that although young cybercrime is often driven by peer pressure than financial reward.

The NCA’s recent #CyberChoices campaign encouraged parents of young people with cyber skills to talk to them about their ambitions and the opportunities to use their skills positively.

Threat from cybercrime

Data breaches are on a “massive scale”, the NCA says, creating thousands of UK victims of personal identity theft. These breaches aren’t fraud-exclusive, they can put lives at risk and damage services.

It uses the WannaCry ransomware that struck the NHS as an example. It targeted 16 NHS trusts one by one, encrypting crucial data on infected computers, demanding a ransom paid by Bitcoin to re-instate user-access. It was the largest cyberattack the NHS had ever experienced, resulting in doctors being locked out of patient records and forcing emergency rooms to send patients to other hospitals.

The NCA warns that although many cybercrimes threatening UK interests come from abroad, “homegrown” cyber offences are increasing.

NCA names top cyberthreats

  • Hacking. This is common through social media and hacking into computers through obtaining email passwords.
  • Phishing. This is the name for email scams asking for security information like the three-digit number on the back of debit and credit cards and other sensitive personal data to plunder bank accounts or go on an online buying spree, using your details. bogus emails asking for security information and personal details
  • Malicious software. This includes ransomware through which criminals hijack files and hold them to ransom until payment is received
  • Distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks against websites. WannaCry is an example of this type of cyber extortion.

Under-reporting of cybercrime

Cyber-attacks are financially devastating and disrupting and upsetting to businesses and individuals alike, but just a small percentage is reported to the relevant authorities, according to the NCA. It is thought that companies fear reporting a crime because it might disrupt their business even further as the incident undergoes investigation.

The NCA urges businesses and individuals to seek advice and support from Cyber Aware, Get Safe Online or the National Cyber Security Centre. If you are a victim of cybercrime report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s fraud and cybercrime reporting centre.