In a world where more and more personal information is being stored and transferred online, data breaches are inevitable. The risks to this sensitive information continue to pose very real dangers, and it has been proven over the years that when it comes to crimeware, there is no location, industry, or business that is immune. The financial motivation behind crimeware is a constant driver, and cyber-attackers are continually finding better, more sophisticated ways of acquiring sensitive data for criminal use.
What Is Crimeware?
Crimeware is a type of malicious software that is intended to automate the cybercrime process. It generally tends to be high in frequency and low in its impact, unlike attacks attributed to large-scale geopolitical activism or other motives. Because they are not often the focus of large organizational incidents, and don’t fall into other large-scale categories, they are likely to fly under the radar and avoid full forensic investigations.
How Is Crimeware Used?
Crimeware differs from adware and other types of malware in that its main focus is to facilitate identity theft in an effort to collect and export sensitive personal financial data (passwords, credit card data, answers to personal security questions). This direct access to a victim’s bank accounts allows for unauthorized activity to occur such as transferring funds to the attacker’s accounts, or making hefty unauthorized purchases. Crimeware often targets point-of-sale terminals, but can also target individual end-users in order gain access to financial information.
Crimeware can result in not only a financial loss, but issues with identity theft, an intrusion of privacy, system slowdowns, unwanted digital advertising, legal problems, and unwanted participation in illegal activities. Crimeware victims are not limited to individuals alone. Any entity with an internet connection is susceptible to crimeware attacks, and victims are often unaware that their data has been compromised until it’s too late. And because crimeware attacks are often specifically customized to the victim, it can be difficult for conventional antivirus protection to perform effectively against them.
Why Is the Financial Industry Specifically at Risk?
The financial industry is especially vulnerable to crimeware attacks because of the monetary gain that’s available to those criminal organizations who successfully steal personal financial information. Where there is money to be acquired, there is criminal focus. This motive is so compelling, in fact, that according to Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report, 89% of breaches in the last year had a financial or espionage motive. In fact, financial web app breaches have increased from 31% last year to 82% this year.
Although some of this focus is user-centric, there is also a lot of attention currently paid to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. These attacks continue to be an enormous issue for financial institutions where large amounts of customer financial data are at risk of exposure. These attacks can expose financial institutions to devastating financial losses and reputation damage that is not easily remedied. The negative publicity that comes with exposing a breach lends crimeware attackers a unique advantage, as many of these attacks go unreported in fear of bad publicity.
Crimeware, as a whole, has a common objective: to obtain money or confidential information. Thieving confidential information for criminal use is not a new practice, and criminal trends continue to lean towards the efforts of extracting personal information from financial institutions for monetary gain. Thanks to this, crimeware continues to lead the pack as one of the top financial services security risks in today’s world of digital banking.