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The rise of cybercrime - Over $300 million lost to scams last year

By Ryan Morris-Reade
Tue 5 Apr 2022

Cybercrime is rising in 2022 with Australians losing over $300 million to scams last year.

Savvy's online scams report reveals the latest figures and what you can do to protect against cyberattacks. The report details how the pandemic has given scammers and hackers an advantage. As remote work pushes more Australians online, the increase in cybercrime hits record-high rates, sparking significant concerns for businesses and families. 

The top scam types by the amount lost are investment scams ($48,845,514) and dating and romance ($8,101,643). New South Wales was hit the hardest with online shopping scams, followed by Victoria, with 43% of cyberattacks targeting small to medium businesses. Currently, the 2022 total amount lost in scams is $72,231,217, an 84% spike in since last year.

According to the report, the top industries affected are education, government, healthcare, communications and software vendors, while smartphones are the primary attack delivery method. The estimated average cost of cybercrime to the global economy is $445 billion yearly.

"We live in a digital era where information and data are more valuable than gold and oil," says Savvy.

"After two years of remote working, online vulnerabilities are escalating with cloud breaches, phishing, account takeover attacks and ransomware among the top concerns."

"The virus crisis is fuelling the growth in cybercrime as hybrid and remote work rises. Recent data shows Australians have lost more than $72 million in scams, and we're only three months into 2022. Compared to last year, that's an increase of over $10 million in the first quarter."

Working from home and lockdowns have changed the way Australians use the Internet. The reliance on IoT devices, virtual classrooms, online communications, work, study and day-to-day life present new opportunities. But they also come with the responsibility to protect data from being accessed by unauthorised parties.

"As malicious hackers switch their focus to online work, we must put stronger access controls to reduce scams and prepare for the future," says Savvy.

Small to medium businesses typically have less cybersecurity protection, making them more vulnerable. According to a report from Australian cybersecurity firm Kaine Mathrick Tech, 43% of cyberattacks target SME businesses. And it found that only 5% of businesses' data folders are protected.

Businesses of all sizes must have an extensive understanding of where their online threats are most likely to come from, with an action plan on the best way to handle them. Recent research shows that one cybercrime targets Australian businesses every 10 minutes.

A report by Privacy Australia revealed that mobile ransomware attacks are also up by 33%. 

Phishing, hacking, remote access scams and malware are ongoing concerns, too, on and offsite, in the office and at home. Scamwatch data shows that smartphones and email are the primary delivery methods for these attacks. 

Savvy explains that the problem is that many SME businesses don't have the budget for cybersecurity. A quieter than expected economy could be to blame for the lack of spending, making business owners increasingly worried about the emerging threats. Hackers and scammers are getting more ambitious and bolder in their attempts, targeting online activities to take advantage of people in all occupations and from all walks of life.

New South Wales ($21 million) and Victoria ($16 million) are the states most impacted by online shopping scams, with Queensland ($12 million) and Western Australia ($11 million) not far behind. 

Australians aged over 65 reported the greatest losses to scams since January, totalling over $17 million. Other age groups most at risk are 25 to 34 and 35 to 44-year-olds. Scams and reports by Australians under the age of 18 also increased by over 50%. Women lost more money to scams, totalling over $36 million, compared to $35 million lost by men. 

Most cyber-attacks are triggered by insiders, outsiders, business partners, organised crime groups and affiliated groups. According to a data breach report by Verizon, outsiders are the biggest culprit (70%) followed by organised crime groups (55%) and insiders (30%).

How to stay safe from financial scams

As the cost of cybercrime continues to rise, more organisations will need to invest in cybersecurity to protect their in-house and remote teams. 

People can expect more attacks on their smartphones, home computers and networks, with cybercriminals taking advantage of security holes. The rush to the cloud and the increase of IoT devices will also cause challenges.  

Businesses and families can protect themselves by managing their biggest risks and the culprits that make people vulnerable, such as a lack of established protocols and unsecured networks.

Implement prevention-based security solutions in the home, business and on the go, such as:

  • Know what devices you have and the vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
  • Understand what data is regulated, private and sensitive. 
  • Provide comprehensive and current cybersecurity training and education to staff.
  • Update hardware and software regularly. 
  • Revisit risks and priorities. 
  • Secure all networks.
  • Use multifactor authentication and control access.
  • Watch for SMS phishing and lookalike sites.
  • Check for data leaks with software.
  • Download carefully.
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