In today’s hyper-connected world, where data is the new gold and information flows at the speed of light, the spectre of cybercrime looms large over industries of all kinds. It affects every sector, including healthcare, finance, education, and entertainment. To get easy money, cybercriminals, ranging from lone hackers to state-sponsored entities, target anything and everything, creating long-term damage to any organisation.
Nowadays, a lot of services have become online. Online shopping has increased, remote working has taken place, and learning has become a hybrid. Taking advantage of the imposed situation, cybercrime has increased, creating more challenges for various businesses. In this article, we will explore the top industries at risk for cybercrime and the pressing need for robust cybersecurity measures.
Industries at Risk for Cybercrime
Cybercrime is a pervasive and evolving threat that affects various industries across the globe. While any sector can virtually fall victim to cyberattacks, some are at a higher risk due to the nature of their operations, the value of their data, and their attractiveness to malicious actors. Here are some of the top industries most susceptible to cybercrime:
1. Cybercrime in the Financial Sector
The financial sector has long been a primary target for cybercriminals due to the wealth of sensitive data it handles and the lure of financial gain. Cybercrime threatens financial stability, the integrity of financial data, and the financial system around the world.
To illustrate, cybercriminals corrupt the confidence in the integrity of financial data, including transactions, records, and algorithms. Transactions could fail if a liquidity trap occurs due to cyberattacks. Companies and households may lose access to payments and may demand their funds from the banks or cancel their accounts. All these incidents result in huge damage to the local and global economy and investment.
Cyberattacks on financial institutions can range from data breaches and phishing scams to ransomware attacks and financial fraud. The implications of these cyberattacks can be dire, both for financial institutions and their customers, as we have seen in numerous high-profile data breaches. They can lead to significant financial losses, reputational damage, and regulatory fines.
Why are the Financial Institutions Juicy Targets for Cybercriminals?
Banks tend to modernise their banking services and payment systems by applying digital banking and mobile payment systems. They have also started relying on digital currencies, like Bitcoins. With this unprecedented digital transformation across the globe, cybercrime is increasingly growing in the financial sector. Here are some challenges posed by cybercrime in the financial sector and how we can protect against these threats.
Ransomware attacks have become a severe threat to the financial industry, targeting banks, investment firms, insurance companies, and other financial institutions. Cybercriminals frequently deploy ransomware to encrypt critical financial data and demand a ransom for its release. These attacks can have significant financial, operational, and reputational consequences.
Financial institutions store sensitive customer information, including account details, Social Security numbers, and transaction histories. So, data breaches can lead to identity theft, financial fraud, and severe reputational damage.
Phishing and Social Engineering
Phishing and social engineering attacks have also become persistent and sophisticated threats within the financial sector. These attacks that target financial employees and customers aim to trick them into revealing sensitive information, such as personal identification numbers (PINs) or login credentials. They can result in substantial financial losses, data breaches, and reputational damage.
Insider threats also risk the financial sector significantly. These threats involve employees or trusted individuals with access to sensitive information and systems who intentionally or unintentionally misuse their privileges. These individuals may leak sensitive information, compromise systems, or engage in fraudulent activities.
How to Prevent Cybercrime in the Financial Sector
There are multiple ways to prevent cybercrime in the financial sector and secure financial data and accounts. Financial institutions should:
• Regularly assess their cybersecurity and check vulnerabilities.
• Create a disaster recovery plan and encrypt sensitive data and information to prevent unauthorised access in case of a data breach.
• Implement strong access controls to restrict access to sensitive systems and data. They can use role-based access to ensure that employees only have access to the resources necessary for their roles.
• Ensure a secure infrastructure by training their employees, raising their awareness of online risks, and teaching them how to avoid these risks.
• Ensure that all endpoints, including employee devices, are protected with up-to-date antivirus software, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems.
• Send alerts and automatic messages confirming the validity of a certain transaction.
• Provide guidelines and precautions for their customers to stay safe while using the bank’s website.
• Assess the cybersecurity practices of third-party vendors and partners that have access to their systems or data.
• Collaborate with other financial institutions and cybersecurity organisations to stay up to date on any emerging threats.
2. Cybercrime in Healthcare
The healthcare industry has also witnessed a significant increase in cybercrime in recent years, posing serious threats to patient safety, privacy, and data security. As healthcare organisations increasingly rely on digital technologies to manage patient records, communicate, and deliver care, they become attractive targets for cybercriminals. Let’s explore the challenges posed by cybercrime in healthcare and discuss measures to safeguard sensitive healthcare data and systems.
Why is Healthcare so Susceptible to Cybercrime?
Healthcare organisations, including hospitals, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, and medical research organisations, are increasingly susceptible to cybercrime nowadays. This is because they store an enormous amount of patients’ highly sensitive information worth a lot of money. This information may include medical records and insurance details. All cyberattacks on healthcare institutions can disrupt patient care, leading to serious consequences and even putting lives at risk.
Ransomware attacks on hospitals, for example, have become increasingly common. Cybercriminals encrypt a patient medical record, rendering it inaccessible, and demand a ransom to decrypt it. These attacks disrupt patient care, lead to downtime, and can result in significant financial losses.
Cybercriminals also prevent healthcare professionals from providing life-saving treatment for patients by locking internet-connected medical devices, such as portable X-rays, vital-sign monitors, and ventilators, and asking for money to unlock them. Of course, healthcare providers will pay the ransom since the information and the devices are vital for the treatment of patients.
In addition, cybercriminals may steal the patient’s medical information, including their credit or debit card numbers, Social Security numbers, insurance details, and medical records. With all this information, they can commit insurance fraud or identity theft. They might steal the patient’s identity to benefit from their medical insurance services or may sell it on the dark web.
Phishing and Social Engineering
Cybercriminals often use phishing emails and social engineering techniques to trick healthcare staff into revealing sensitive information or clicking on phishing links. Such attacks can compromise login credentials and provide unauthorised access to healthcare systems.
Among the major factors that help increase cybercrime in the healthcare industry are outdated technology and computing systems. Many healthcare institutions still use outdated and vulnerable legacy systems that lack robust security features. These systems are often more susceptible to cyberattacks.
Lack of Cybersecurity Education and Training
On top of that, healthcare professionals do not have the time to learn about cybersecurity and its importance in healthcare due to their long, busy days. Insufficient cybersecurity training leads to a growing number of cyberattacks, and that’s why cybercriminals take advantage of these last two points to find security vulnerabilities in healthcare systems.
How to Safeguard the Healthcare Industry Against Cybercrime
Healthcare organisations should do the following to protect against cybercrime:
• Provide education and awareness programs to help healthcare staff recognise and respond to cyber threats. This training should include the best practices for identifying phishing attempts and avoiding social engineering scams.
• Update all systems and software with the latest security patches to fix known vulnerabilities that cybercriminals often exploit.
• Implement strong authentication mechanisms and access controls to make sure only authorised personnel can access sensitive patient data.
• Encrypt data in transit and at rest to protect patient information from being intercepted or accessed by unauthorised individuals, even if the system is breached.
• Back up data frequently for disaster recovery and mitigating the impact of ransomware attacks. Backup data should be stored securely and tested regularly to ensure its integrity.
• Create an incident response plan with the steps they should take in any event of a cyber incident to ensure a coordinated response.
• Segment the network to limit the lateral movement of cyber attackers within the system. They should isolate critical systems from less secure areas of the network.
• Regularly conduct penetration tests and vulnerability assessments to identify and remediate weaknesses in the healthcare IT infrastructure.
• Assess the cybersecurity practices of service providers and third-party vendors who access patient data to ensure they meet security standards and compliance requirements.
• Adhere to healthcare data protection regulations such as HIPAA and GDPR to ensure legal compliance and patient data security.
3. Cybercrime in Education
Educational institutions, from K-12 schools to universities, also store sensitive information, such as personal information, research data, and financial information. That’s why education is one of the industries at risk for cybercrime. Cyberattacks in the education sector can result in data breaches that expose confidential information, disrupt learning environments, and compromise student and staff privacy. Here are the common cyberattacks in the education industry and how to protect against them.
Phishing and Social Engineering
Cybercriminals may use phishing emails and social engineering tactics to trick students, faculty, and staff into clicking on malicious links or revealing login credentials. These attacks can lead to unauthorised access and data breaches.
Ransomware attacks disrupt the operations of educational institutions because they render systems and data inaccessible until a ransom is paid. These attacks disrupt online learning, administrative functions, and research activities.
Distributed Denial of Service Attacks
Cybercriminals also use distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks by intentionally causing a major traffic jam to prevent authorised users from accessing a website or a network. These attacks can disrupt online learning platforms, preventing students from accessing course materials and participating in virtual classes.
Data Breaches and Intellectual Property Theft
As educational institutions store a wealth of sensitive information, cybercriminals may target this data, aiming for identity theft, financial fraud, or selling on the dark web. On top of that, research universities are especially targeted for intellectual property theft, with attackers seeking to steal research findings, patents, and other valuable data.
How Educational Institutions Fight Back Against Cyberattacks
Here are some safeguarding measures educational institutions should take to fight against cybercrimes:
• Educate students, faculty, and staff about cybersecurity best practices, including how to recognise phishing emails, manage strong passwords, and report suspicious activities.
• Ensure that all devices used within the educational institution, including student laptops and faculty computers, have up-to-date antivirus software and security patches.
• Implement robust email filtering solutions to detect and block phishing emails and malicious attachments before they reach recipients’ inboxes.
• Apply encryption to sensitive data to protect it from unauthorised access in case of a data breach.
• Maintain frequent and secure backups of critical data. They should also ensure backups are tested regularly to recover data if there is a ransomware attack.
• Implement network security measures to protect against unauthorised access and DDoS attacks.
• Collaborate with other educational institutions, cybersecurity organisations, and government agencies to share threat intelligence and stay informed about emerging cyber threats.
4. Cybercrime in Manufacturing and Industrial Sectors
The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has transformed the manufacturing and industrial sectors. While these technologies enhance efficiency, they also create new vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit. Breaches in these systems can lead to production disruptions, intellectual property theft, and safety concerns, underscoring the need for enhanced cybersecurity.
To illustrate, cyberattacks can disrupt production processes, leading to downtime, lost revenue, and supply chain interruptions. On top of that, cyberattacks on the supply chain can disrupt the flow of materials and goods, impacting production schedules and causing financial losses.
Cybercriminals may also steal valuable intellectual property like designs, patents, and trade secrets, often stored in manufacturing firms, to gain money or a competitive advantage. Theft of intellectual property can harm a company’s competitive position and affect long-term profitability. Here are some common cyberattacks in the manufacturing and industrial sectors.
Phishing, Social Engineering, and Ransomware Attacks
Cybercriminals target manufacturing companies with ransomware to encrypt critical data and demand a ransom for its release. These attacks can halt production and lead to significant financial losses. They may also target employees in manufacturing and industrial settings through phishing emails and social engineering tactics to gain unauthorised access or steal sensitive information.
Cybercriminals may also compromise the Industrial Control System (ICS) to manipulate equipment, compromise safety systems, or cause physical damage. Attacks on ICS can jeopardise employee safety, the environment, and the reliability of critical infrastructure.
Safeguarding Measures in the Manufacturing and Industrial Sectors
To protect against cybercrime, manufacturing and industrial sectors should:
• Segment network to isolate critical systems.
• Implement strong access controls to make sure only legitimate persons can access sensitive information.
• Train your employees on cybersecurity best practices.
• Regularly do security audits and vulnerability assessments.
5. Cybercrime in Retail and E-commerce
Since retailers and e-commerce platforms also handle a large amount of customer data, including credit card information, cybercriminals are drawn to this sector to steal payment information, conduct fraudulent transactions, or launch DDoS attacks that can disrupt operations. That’s why retailers must invest in robust security to protect both their reputation and customers. Here are some common cyberattacks in the retail and e-commerce industries:
Phishing, Ransomware, Supply Chain Attacks
Retailers and e-commerce platforms can be targeted with phishing emails and ransomware attacks. Phishing emails lead to unauthorised access, data breaches, and financial losses. However, ransomware attacks can disrupt operations, making it impossible to process orders and impacting revenue. Cybercriminals may also compromise suppliers or distributors, leading to the delivery of compromised products or disruption of supply chains.
Customer Data Breaches
Attacks on retailers and e-commerce platforms cause data breaches. These breaches involving customer information can result in legal repercussions, reputational damage, and financial penalties. Cybercriminals may also steal credit card and payment information, leading to financial fraud and damage to customer trust.
Safeguarding Measures in Retail and E-Commerce
To protect your retailer and e-commerce platform, you should do the following:
• Use tokenisation and encryption for payment data.
• Regularly update and patch payment processing systems.
• Regularly train employees on the best practices of cybersecurity and incident response.
• Implement network security measures to detect and prevent ransomware intrusions.
• Comply with GDPR or CCPA and implement PCI DSS compliance measures.
• Maintain up-to-date backups of critical data to ensure data recovery if there is a ransomware attack.
• Establish strict access controls for supply chain partners and limit access to customer information to authorised personnel only.
• Encrypt customers’ sensitive data at rest and in transit.
• Conduct security assessments and vulnerability scans to identify and address weaknesses in your cybersecurity system.
6. Cybercrime in Media
The media industry, encompassing television, film, publishing, and digital content, is highly susceptible to cybercrime due to the vast amounts of digital assets and sensitive information. Media companies and content production houses, for example, hold valuable content libraries and customer databases, making them attractive targets. Intellectual property theft and ransomware attacks can disrupt content creation and distribution. Let’s explore some cybercrime threats faced by the media industry.
Phishing, Social Engineering, and Ransomware Attacks
Cybercriminals may target media organisations with ransomware to steal the valuable content they hold. They encrypt critical data and demand a ransom for its release. They may also target employees in media organisations with phishing emails and social engineering tactics to gain unauthorised access or steal sensitive information. These attacks cause data breaches.
Piracy and Copyright Infringement
Piracy and copyright infringement are persistent challenges in the media industry. They affect content creators, distributors, and consumers alike. These attacks lead to revenue loss and brand damage.
Disinformation campaigns have become a pressing issue in the media landscape. Threat actors may target media outlets aiming to spread false information, manipulate public opinion, sow confusion, and erode trust in journalism.
Protection Strategy for the Media Industry
To protect against cybercrime in the media industry, media companies should do the following:
• Implement digital rights management (DRM) solutions to protect digital content from unauthorised distribution.
• Monitor for copyright infringements and take legal action against pirates.
• Maintain up-to-date backups of critical data to ensure recovery.
• Educate employees about recognising and reporting phishing attempts and suspicious activities.
• Encrypt sensitive data and comply with data protection regulations such as GDPR to protect user data.
• Deploy advanced email filtering and authentication technologies to detect and block phishing emails.
• Implement content verification mechanisms to detect and counter disinformation campaigns.
• Educate audiences on how to identify credible sources of information.
7. Cybercrime in Entertainment
Sports events and online gaming have become popular targets for cybercriminals due to the vast online audience, financial opportunities, and the competitive nature of these industries. So, let’s explore the specific threats posed by cybercrime in sports events and online gaming and discuss safeguarding measures to protect against these risks.
Cybercrime in the FIFA World Cup
Cybercriminals target sporting events, especially international ones. In 2018, they targeted the FIFA World Cup in Russia with phishing emails. Back in 2018, some FIFA World Cup fans received emails informing them they had won a lottery. To claim their winnings, they had to contact the lottery’s organiser. Cybercriminals also asked some fans to download an attached malicious file to learn more details about the winnings. They aim to steal the fans’ sensitive personal and financial information.
How to Protect Yourself Against Cybercrime While in the FIFA World Cup
If you are a FIFA World Cup fan, beware of similar cybercrimes that might occur.
• Do not access public Wi-Fi as it might be hacked.
• Never click on links on any websites that offer you free or discounted tickets to travel and support your national football team.
• Do not use apps that ask for more permissions than normal. They promise that they will get you the best ticket deals; however, they will gain access to your sensitive data. Only purchase tickets from official websites.
• Not only are fans susceptible to cybercrime, but players also could be victims. Cybercriminals may steal details about game plans, team strategy, and prominent sports players.
Online Gaming and Cybercrime
Online gaming is a ubiquitous growing industry, existing in almost all houses around the world. It entertains both kids and adults as it includes video games, online games, and eSports gaming. However, its popularity increases identity theft, sale and theft of in-game items, money laundering, and other cybercrimes, thus affecting developers, publishers, and gamers.
Cybercriminals hack your account and sell it on the dark web. The price of the stolen accounts may vary depending on the in-game items, paid game accounts, and well-developed game characters. Alternatively, they might change your login credentials and ask for a ransom to bring the account back to you.
Cybercriminals can create a website similar to the website of the official game. Then, they make you an offer to purchase inventory or in-game items at a low cost. When you download anything from this fake website, they install malware on your device, stealing your personal and financial data.
Not only do cybercriminals target gamers, but they also target game publishers. They could stop the game and take its infrastructure down. If the game publisher pays a ransom, they could bring the game online. They may also hack the game to destroy the publisher’s reputation.
How To Protect Yourself While Playing?
• Do not update any games from unknown sources.
• Do not accept any suspicious offers from anyone trading in in-game goods outside the official game marketplace.
• Never chat with any offenders
• Never share your personal or financial information in voice or text-based chat.
• Each online game has strict regulations that ban cheaters. If you encounter one, report the suspicious offers directly to the support team.
Cybercrime is a formidable and evolving threat that spans across various industries. As technology continues to advance, so do the tactics of cybercriminals. To mitigate these risks, industries must prioritise robust cybersecurity measures, including regular assessments, employee training, and the implementation of cutting-edge security technologies. Collaboration between industries, governments, and cybersecurity experts is paramount to staying ahead of cyber threats and protecting critical infrastructure and data in the digital age.