Computer virus attacks on British businesses rose by 145% last year, reveals ONS

Fraud and cybercrime statistics released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that computer virus attacks on British businesses rose by 145% in the year ending September 2017.

According to the ONS, cyber-attacks on consumers fell sharply last year with incidents of fraud and computer misuse and consumer and retail fraud falling by 15 percent and 20 percent respectively.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the year ending September 2017 has revealed how hackers increasingly targeted businesses with more and more cyber-attacks in the period, even as cyber crimes on consumers fell sharply in terms of the number of incidents.

2017 was a happy year for consumers who suffered comparatively lesser numbers of cyber-attacks compared to previous years. For example, even though 4.7 million incidents of fraud and computer misuse took place in England and Wales last year, the number was still 15% lower compared to the previous year. Similarly, consumer and retail fraud fell by 20 percent to 700,000 incidents, advance fee fraud fell by 53 percent to 56,000 incidents, and computer virus incidents fell by 26 percent to one million incidents.

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On the other hand, businesses in the UK weren't as lucky as consumers last year. According to data from Action Fraud, incidents of computer misuse rose by 63 percent last year, and those involving computer viruses rose by as much as 145 percent. A majority of these incidents were destructive malware and ransomware attacks like the WannaCry ransomware that impacted hundreds of thousands of systems in May last year.

However, Fraser Kyne, EMEA CTO at Bromium, believes that the statistics available with Action Fraud are only a reflection of 'reported crime', thereby hinting that the real damage could be much worse.

'Reports can only tell us what we know about (i.e. what has been detected and reported). These detected events prove that things are getting in; so we must also assume that things are getting in that are remaining undetected too. This is why we need tools that can protect us from the things that we can’t see/detect,' he says.

'Cybercrime will continue to flourish as long as the security industry remains reliant on detection-based security tools. With cybercriminals becoming more and more successful every year, we have to admit that the detection model is broken. The industry must respond with new ways of defending enterprises and the public at large to ensure that we don’t see the continued rise of cybercrime,' he adds.

According to Andy Waterhouse, EMEA Director at RSA Security, while it is encouraging to note that hackers are starting to draw their attention away from consumers, businesses are now facing the brunt of hackers who are leveraging new tactics to earn greater profits.

'The aftershock from major ransomware attacks last year such as WannaCry and NotPetya is evident. These highly-weaponised threats now have the ability to replicate and spread at an unfathomable pace, putting critical UK infrastructure and businesses at risk with every attack,' he says.