No country is immune to cybercrime and as the internet of things grows exponentially, the risk of being directly affected by the malicious activities of cybercriminals increases.
Between the years 2018 and 2019, the internet saw 9% more active users year-on-year, amounting to 366 million new users and a total of 5.11 billion potential targets for cybercrime. However, not every country is equally at risk.
In the latest Cybersecurity Exposure Index by PasswordManagers.co, Afghanistan is flagged as the most exposed country and Finland as the least. But, where does Scotland stand?
According to a recent 2019 Policing Performance report, Scotland has been witnessing a significant rise in instances of cybercrime, particularly in the areas of sexual offences including indecent communications and images, as well as serious organised crime gangs using ransomware attacks to extort money from victims by threatening to publish stolen data or block access to files or computer systems.
While this may sound worrying, it is important to bear in mind that the United Kingdom, from a global perspective, is one of the least exposed countries. The UK ranks as the eighth least exposed country in Europe and 13th globally.
These statistics indicate that the central UK government, and the devolved administrations, are seeing some success in managing the cyber threat, but it must be kept in mind that the attacks recorded in the UK do not necessarily originate from within the country itself.
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Cybercrime is, of course, unique from many other types of crime in that a cybercriminal does not even have to step foot in a specific country to attack a citizen or business entity. Attacks often come from halfway around the globe and it is very difficult to decipher the exact origins.
The existing criminal codes in Scotland, the UK and around the world are country-specific and designed to deal with crimes that have been committed within the borders of their country, which often ties the hands of law enforcement and prosecutors. To better fight cybercrime, and make the internet a safer place, closer global co-operation is required.
Which Devices Can Be Affected by Cybercrime?
Aside from the obvious targets like computers, laptops, mobile phones, and tablets, almost any device that is connected to the internet can potentially be hacked. Cybercrime mostly involves financial losses and crimes, but no internet-connected device is immune to hacking.
For example, medical firms have recently begun incorporating Wi-Fi connectivity into medical devices such as pacemakers and insulin pumps. While these technological advances bring huge benefits to the users of the technology, it also makes it possible for criminals to hack these devices and cause them to malfunction with potentially fatal results.
While smart-devices make our lives easier, they can be targeted by cybercriminals and we need to improve how we protect ourselves against these threats.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself Against Cyberattacks?
Prevention is better than cure. This is especially true when it comes to cybercrime since attacks can often end up being very costly in terms of direct financial exploitation, as well as the loss of data.
Making sure that you have a good antivirus programme installed is the first line of defence against hackers. Users who choose to browse the web without the protection antivirus software are far softer targets and, while having the software installed is by no means a guarantee of your safety, it does make you a less easy target for hackers.
In a survey conducted by the Scottish government, the most common online security measures taken to avoid cybercrime were not opening emails or attachments from unknown people, not openly sharing personal information online, and using different passwords for different online accounts.
However, with the projected number of passwords used worldwide by humans and computers expected to rise to 300 billion by 2020, and the staggering fact that 81% of all data breaches are due to the use of compromised, weak, and reused passwords, effective password security has never been more necessary.
The internet is becoming an increasingly vital technology for modern society, but as its role and functionality expand, the risks associated with cybercrime will continue to evolve in unison.
As internet users, we should do what we can to support governments in their various initiatives to identify and prevent cybercrime and awareness and resilience.
Although global cybersecurity threats continue to become more sophisticated, the risk level in Scotland and the UK remains amongst the lowest in the world.