It’s no secret that cybersecurity became a hot topic in 2020. As the world went online, people also fell victim to hacks more often than ever before. During a recent study, researchers from StockApp.com found that cybercrime numbers increased by around 55 percent over the past two years. Part of that growth includes $1.8 billion in business email compromises.
There are a number of reasons why U.S. cybercrime numbers have risen over the past few years. For one, the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to spend much more time online than usual. It also made it necessary for people to quickly learn new software programs—often without any professional training or overview. Obviously, both of these factors made it possible for cybercriminals to take advantage of people with new hacks and hidden malware.
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the only thing responsible for climbing cybercrime numbers, though. Worldwide, attacks have been rising steadily for some time, affecting both individual users and companies alike. Simply put, hackers are able to cash in for massive paydays with many of today’s most popular malware programs.
According to StockApp, the total loss caused by cybercrime in the U.S. last year alone totaled $4.2 billion. That is a massive blow to the nation’s economy and the pockets of consumers. While it might not sound like a lot in the grand scheme of things, the disruption certainly has an impact.
It’s also clear that people are concerned about the rise in cybercrime. A Gallup poll published back in March found that Americans ranked cyberterrorism as the top threat facing the country. A whopping 82 percent listed it as a threat. Cybercrime ranked higher than things like nuclear weapons, the spread of disease (ironically), and climate change.
That may come as a surprise given the amount of attention received by other issues relative to cybercrime. In many cases, cyberattacks are swept under the rug unless they occur on a massive scale, such as the one targeting SolarWinds late last year.
Speaking of large attacks, it appears that hackers are getting bolder when choosing their targets. Or, at the very least, they’re getting more successful at hitting high value, big-name companies. Last year saw a record number of attacks, mainly ransomware, affect well-known companies and their customers.
A data breach at MGM resorts exposed the information of more than 10 million guests. A similar attack on Marriott exposed 5.2 million customer accounts.
Ransomware attacks halted manufacturing operations at Honda, Tower Semi, and Garmin. As hackers locked down company networks, firms were forced to shut down while trying to resolve the issue and prevent further compromise.
An arguably more disturbing trend also arose, with hackers targeting COVID-19 research labs and hospitals. At least one patient reportedly died as a direct result of a cyberattack on a German hospital near the start of the pandemic. As high-value targets due to the type of data being handled and the need to keep their systems online, hospitals must keep a close eye on their digital security in the years to come.
Of course, with cybercrime numbers on the rise, that is true for all companies and individuals.