Cyber extortion rates surge in UK

Incidents of online extortion in the UK reported to the police increased by nearly two-fifths in 2022 compared to a year previously, according to law firm RPC.

The findings, which cover the full year to December 2022, were sourced from Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime.

They revealed 3200 reports of cyber extortion last year, including cases of ransomware, sextortion and cases where data is stolen and held to ransom –  up from 2300 cases in 2021, according to RPC.

The law firm also revealed an 8% increase in reports made by victims of email and social media hacking, up from 13,500 in 2021 to 14,600 in 2022.

These incidents are often the first stage in an impersonation attack, where lawyers, accountants and other trusted individuals have their email hijacked and used to send scam messages to victims tricking them into wiring funds to the fraudster, RPC claimed.

Partner and head of cyber and tech insurance at RPC, Richard Breavington, said that although attacks against larger organisations fell over the past year, SMEs and individuals are still struggling to manage cyber risk effectively.

“SMEs trying to reduce costs and not investing in properly training staff on how to manage data and avoid phishing attacks is a false economy. There are an increasing number of cyber-insurance policies available, some of which are aimed at SMEs that cover the cost of dealing with a data breach,” he added.

“However, some of these policies will require basic security steps to have been taken. Insurance cover isn’t going to completely remove the impact of a data breach such as reputational damage but will allow a business to get back on its feet faster.”

Only 36% of micro and small businesses currently have cyber insurance, according to the latest government breaches survey. The figure rises to 63% of mid-sized businesses and 55% of large businesses.

Separately, Action Fraud figures revealed other forms of cybercrime are falling. Malware reports decreased from 7200 in 2021 to 5300 last year, while reports linked to the hacking of servers, PCs and phones declined 10% over the period to 5200 last year.

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