Cybercrime has thrived during the pandemic, amid reports that the number of hacking, fraud and computer misuse offences rose sharply during the last year’s lockdowns.
Figures from the Crime Service for England and Wales Report, compiled by the Office for National Statistics, show fraud offences for the year to March 2021 increased by 24%, to 4.6 million. Computer misuse, meanwhile, rose by 85% to 1.7 million offences.
All this is said to have been driven by a 162% increase in what the ONS termed ‘unauthorised access to personal information (including hacking)’. Data breaches and hacks to individuals’ email or social media accounts were all included in these figures.
In fact, fraud from online shopping and auctions grew by 57% (from 62,509 offences to 97,927), whilst financial investment fraud increased 44% (from 14,024 offences to 20,260).
Billy Gazard, from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said these increases are in stark contrast to the majority of other crimes monitored (including theft, firearms offences and homicide), which declined in number during lockdown.
“The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on patterns of crime,” he told ons.gov.uk. “There were substantial increases in fraud and computer misuse offences such as hacking, as fraudsters took advantage of behavioural changes during the pandemic, such as increased online shopping.”
Advice to businesses concerned about becoming the next victim remains that of vigilance. Many of these hacks will have come about through simple error, or from an individual not spotting red flags in time. Training staff members on how to spot potential risks, or taking measures to ensure they don’t put themselves – or corporate devices and networks – in danger in the first place, could be what stops a business from becoming the next victim.
Whilst some committed hackers can still try to breach defences through brute force, simply ensuring they are given no easy routes in can be enough to deter the vast majority of small-scale hackers looking to take an easy opportunity.