China is not only home to the world’s largest population. It may also house the biggest flock of hackers – or at least the busiest. In an interview with 60 Minutes, FBI director James Comey revealed that Chinese hackers have hit U.S. businesses for intellectual property, negotiation secrets, and other data they can use to fuel their own creations and profit off the hard work of others. According to Comey, these attacks have resulted in the loss of countless manufacturing jobs in U.S. industries where stolen goods are decreasing direct sales and the need for production.
It’s been suggested that China is rather blatant in its onslaught against Corporate America, but it isn’t the only country busily engaging in cyber warfare. Numerous other nations are in on the shenanigans, with each having carved out a reputation for its own brand of cyber crime.
Vietnam: Emails of the Dead (that’s the best I’ve got!)
Users all over the world are being bombarded with unwanted email, but organized spam is running wilder than Hulkamania in Asia. In fact, one security vendor ranked Vietnam number two in bot-based spam back in 2011, when the rate increased 5 percent from the previous year. Like botnets, these so-called spam zombies are made up of enslaved systems that fire off huge batches of unsolicited mail via remote control. But these aren’t your typical annoying ads for male enhancement gear. Spam zombies are often deployed to deliver malware and catch unsuspecting users in phishing traps.
UK: Network Nightmares
Cyber threats aren’t exactly new, but they started to take on an all new form of terror when the modern day internet came into play. The internet is pretty much a lawless realm and therefore a playground for digital goons who know how to exploit it. The security vendor I mentioned indicated that these guys have a steady presence in the UK, which ranked number three for network attacks in the threat activity trends report. The scariest thing about these exploits is probably the unknown element. Network attacks range from database exploits like SQL injection to IP spoofing to stuff we’ve yet to even hear of.
India: More Mobile, More Malicious
Viruses, Trojans, and other malicious software pose one of the biggest threats to company networks, systems, and data. India is infested with malware and cited as having the highest activity by country in 2011, according to the security vendor. Rival security software firm F-Secure found that India’s tradeoff for being the fastest growing smartphone market is being the fourth most targeted by mobile malware. Another source reports India as having the third highest percentage of malware targeting online banking activities, which recently hit more than 3000 attacks over a month. It’s getting bad.
Germany: “Phishing” for Fools
Armed with cleverly crafted emails, logos, and websites purporting reputable companies, scammers are on a mission to reel unknowing consumers into costly traps – phishing scams to be exact. One security vendor ranked Germany as the second biggest pool for phishing. What’s even more alarming is the success rate scammers are finding. I found this interesting infographic that revealed the following statistics on just how many people are taking the bait each day:
- 8 million phishing emails are opened – after bypassing spam filters.
- 800,000 links in phishing emails are clicked. Now you’re hooked!
- 80,000 people a day are reeled in by phishing scams, meaning they either have their credit card numbers, money, or even identities stolen in the act.
USA: Land of Opportunity For Cybercriminals
By now we’ve established that cyber-crime is prevalent all around the world. However, it could be a bit more unsettling to know that our homeland is a proverbial melting pot of digital dangers. If you go back to the report I mentioned, you’ll see that the United States ranked number one overall for malicious activity, topping every other country in all but two categories. In this case, being rich in diversity and technology has left us most vulnerable to the cyber-attacks threatening to cripple the digital world.
Calculating the Cost of Data Breach
You can find quite a few sources that aim to tally the total cost of data breaches, but I thought the effort by IBM and Ponemon was right on time for this topic. The report covers eleven different countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, India, and Germany. I’ll borrow a bit from the summary by saying that while the findings vary from one country to the next, there are at least four common trends:
1. The cost of data breaches is rising on a global scale.
2. Malicious attacks have emerged as the main cause of data breaches.
3. Customer loyalty is likely to decrease after a data breach.
4. Having a disaster recovery in place can reduce the cost of a data breach.
As I put the finishing touches on this, I’m scrolling through my inbox and just noticed a phishing email, claiming to be from Scottrade, trying to trick me into clicking a link and viewing an overview of a recent mutual fund investment – roughly 10 hours after I made a transaction from my trading account. Madness! With all this behind me, I’m certainly revisiting my data security strategy to be on the safer side. How about you?
Photo Credit: Guy Sie via Flickr