As a business based in Harlow, it is a worrying statistic that, outside of central London, Essex has the highest amount of recorded cyber fraud of anywhere in the United Kingdom. In the past six months alone, there have been 6,679 fraud cases documented. Of that figure, 66% were related to business, and 25% (a quarter of the full figure) were to do with cyber-crime. We are not talking about small data breaches either. One company was the victim of a malware attack that cost them in the region of £80,000. The scariest part of all? That staggering sum was lost in just 10 minutes.
2015 was also the year that 150 individuals in Essex were stripped of more than £60,000 over the space of two months, with fraudsters gaining access to their networks and transferring vast sums away from personal bank accounts. The scam was one, amongst others, that used big industry names to convince the people scammed that they were dealing with a reputable business. On this occasion, calls were made claiming to be from Microsoft, BT and Sky, asking to be granted remote access to a device. Once achieved, the criminal could then transfer money across to an untraceable account. To add salt to the wound, they would also, on occasions, charge their victims for the pleasure.
Spam emails have also been on the increase, with messages sent through that claim to be from Royal Mail. There have so far been two types of email rife across Essex. Type 1 claims that the company are holding a letter for the victim, explaining that there will be a £5 per day charge until it is collected. Email 2 states that a parcel cannot be delivered, and asks you to click on a link that leads to a fake Royal Mail website to organise the collection. Both email types install CryptoLocker ransomware on the system once the links are clicked. The ransomware encrypts the PC’s files, making them unreadable. The scammer at this point has full control, and blackmails the owner into paying to have their system ‘unlocked’.
Truly underlining the severity of Essex’s problem with cyber-crime is that the local police force will be launching a specialist Cyber-Crime Unit in 2016, with the intention of stemming the tide. Developed alongside Kent police, the unit will identify and prevent what is seen as a quickly growing threat. Protecting yourself and your business online is equally important as protecting yourself in person, so, although the stats are worrying, this does seem to be an active effort on behalf of the local police forces to tackle the issue, something we should all welcome.
The increase in Essex based cyber-crime is quite interesting. The area is home to a large number of commuters, and many businesses who keep a simple office in the city, and a larger one for staff in the more cost-effective Essex region. Does this London connection account for the high percentage of business-related crime? Whatever the reason, what we hope the Essex cyber-crime unit emphasises is the importance of reporting all instances of fraud, however small. By building up a regional picture, it is easier to predict and ultimately protect against specific attacks. Declaring that your company has been attacked needn’t be embarrassing, and could help protect us all in the future.
Digital Pathways are holding a Cyber Security Seminar on the 1st March. If you would like to find out how to protect yourself & your business, please come along. More details can be found here.