If you’ve been following technology news, even passively, you’re probably already aware that cybercriminal activity continues to escalate at an unprecedented rate. Industry analysts anticipate that cybercrime will exceed $10.5 trillion worldwide by 2025. But who’s responsible for carrying out these cyber attacks, and what does the typical hacker profile look like?
Over the years, from fashionable cyberpunks to the shadowy middle-aged man cloistered in his mother’s basement, Hollywood has projected various archetypes of the criminal hacker onto the global public psyche. And while the influence that these iconic images have had on the wider computer culture is substantial, depictions of the cybercriminal underworld in Hollywood aren’t always accurate.
Cyber criminality is a transnational problem
To the uninitiated, the criminal hacker is typically perceived as either an urban coterie of neon-infused teenagers with spiky haircuts or a 40-something lone wolf with vague links to domestic terror organizations. One of the earliest popular stories to emerge about hacking was in the 1983 film WARGAMES starring Matthew Broderick. This famous narrative managed to weave in many of the same impressions that most of us still have about hackers today.
In 1983, the plot of WARGAMES might’ve seemed like a far-fetched dystopian vision of the future. Nevertheless, the movie details several of the same problems hackers currently pose to governments and corporations around the globe. In reality, the contemporary cybercriminal community isn’t overly represented by computer-savvy teenagers or unstable and disaffected Gen X’ers who were IT rockstars in the 90s before permanently falling out of the workforce.
It’s a fact that the globe’s most dangerous hackers are usually characterless and bland, more often than not displaying overt ties to international governments. In 2013, the Bowman Avenue Dam network in New York was hacked by a group of Iranian threat actors. The dam doesn’t represent a significant piece of infrastructure, spanning just 15 feet wide and two feet in depth.
The concern among those responsible for US cybersecurity wasn’t about the breach of this particular dam. Their primary worries were, instead, focused on the prospects of a foreign cyber attacker disrupting a more significant component of US infrastructure like the national power grid.
The most influential players in the cybercriminal world are routinely traceable to governments, and Iran is by no means the leader in this field. The top five countries responsible for instigating major cyber warfare attacks are:
- China – 27% of all documented cyber attacks originate in China, which carries out most of its activities in the US.
The United States – The US is the second highest contributor to malicious hacking activity at roughly 17% of reported incidents.
- Turkey – Turkey may not make the news for being a hotbed for cybercriminal activity, but it ranks third among all countries, accounting for nearly 10% of all malicious cyberattacks.
- Brazil – While Brazil is still far from being a “cashless society,” electronic transactions at the point of sale are relatively high, accelerating the decline of banknotes in the country. This environment has instigated a significant spike in Brazilian cybercrime, with the nation accounting for nearly 9% of worldwide cyberattacks.
- Russia – Because the Russians are so well known for their ability to hack complex systems, many would have their country at the top of this list. But they’re only responsible for 5% of global cybercriminal activity. The Russians might not be the most prolific hackers, but they certainly rank among the most capable.
Coordinated cyberattacks originating abroad are, like most hacks, motivated by financial gain. But skilled hackers are also used for spying activities and generally undermining political competitors or making politically charged statements.
Is your business safe from international cyber threats?
All this talk of transnational criminal hacking might make you believe your business is too small to become a target. If you don’t contract with the DoD and you’re not a big industry player, why worry about multinational hacking organizations? There is ample reason to be concerned because small to medium-sized businesses are at more risk than ever of being victimized by a cyberattack. At present, nearly half of all cyber crimes in the US target small businesses, and this figure is only increasing.
If you hold prominent political affiliations in your community and visibly participate in politically orientated activities, this only elevates your chances of becoming a target. You might not be directly responsible for influencing and developing policy. However, the mere fact that you own digital assets and have publicly articulated a political stance, even in an ostensibly benign social media post or blog, leaves your organization vulnerable and may even have wider implications for your entire industry. And this is true, no matter how small your company is.
Cybercriminal organizations are just as advanced and calculating as your own company, and they run their operations just like any other business. These bad actors work in shifts, take vacations, and spend time with their families on the weekends. Many cybercriminals work right alongside legitimate corporations and government bodies. Moreover, like any conventional business sector, these international hacking organizations are in direct competition with each other. They can even come to depend on one another for intelligence and other products and services.
How to protect your business from cybercriminals
Threat actors come in all forms, and PCH Technologies understands the profile of cybercriminals just now taking aim at small businesses like yours. Unsure if your cybersecurity protections are up to par? To schedule your comprehensive cyber risk assessment, connect with PCH Technologies today by filling out our online contact form or dialing (856) 754-7500 now.