Ransomware extortion attacks have become so common and effective that the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) has classified the threat as among the most potent out there.
A new report from NCA states that the pandemic drove everyone online, including criminals. To commit crimes at scale and avoid detection, criminals increasingly used emerging technologies, the NCA says, adding that ransomware attacks increased in both frequency and impact.
It estimates that half of all ransomware attacks now involve a threat to publish stolen data online. Last year, there were more than 4.2 billion fraud losses for UK individuals and businesses, the NCA added, saying that the real figure is most likely a lot higher due to “significant under-reporting.”
The key element of ransomware extortion attacks is cryptocurrency, which can often be difficult to trace, and easier to move than cash. The emerging technology is also being used to facilitate money laundering, the report claims.
Besides ransomware extortion attacks, criminals are also increasingly using technology (namely, the dark web), to trade illegal commodities, including guns and drugs.
“This year’s NSA shows how criminal exploitation of technology is central to the threat. For law enforcement, the frontline must now be online, as well as on our streets,” said NCA Director General Dame Lynne Owens.
“Whether in the real world or online, the NCA will continue to identify and pursue the criminals who pose the biggest risks to our families, communities, the integrity of the state, and its prosperity. No one involved in serious and organized crime in the UK should consider themselves beyond our reach.”