The senior police officer leading Scotland’s fight against cyber crime today painted a stark picture of the online threat to Scottish businesses.
Detective Superintendent Steven Wilson revealed that home-based crime gangs are now leading sophisticated online attacks – while over 55s dabbling with social networking platforms like Facebook are also being targeted.
As head of the newly created Cyber Resilience Group, Det Supt Wilson has been tasked by the Scottish Government to tackle the rising threat to small and medium sized businesses.
Speaking at the e-Crime Scotland Summit in Edinburgh, he said: “People associate these attacks with gangs from Eastern Europe, China. In fact we are seeing a significant increase in this activity at home, with Scottish gangs heavily involved. These are organised criminals who may also be involved in the drug trade and other such activities.
“Their business is making the maximum profits with the minimum risk. They perceive cyber crime as offering a high-degree of anonymity. We know it is happening in Scotland, because we already have several cases underway.”
The e-Crime Scotland Summit is a major conference organised by the Scottish Business Crime Centr. It aims to share and distribute knowledge and intelligence vital for Scottish companies to conduct business online, safely and securely.
Described as ‘Vishing’ attacks, the new wave of crimes use cunning voice calls to follow up online ‘phishing’ techniques. The criminals conduct sophisticated and in-depth online research into target businesses. They then pull together highly-convincing scripts and make phone calls to victims, while posing as officials from banks or finance companies.
After tricking victims into handing over passwords, the crooks then immediately use the information to make online cash transfers, bouncing the stolen money around various accounts.
Det Supt Wilson added: “We have seen these attacks across the UK cost businesses anything from hundreds of thousands of pound to millions of pounds.”
The experienced officer believes Scotland’s new single police force give the country a chance to develop one of the best anti-cyber crime responses in the world. Officers are working closely with experienced prosecutors within the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service who have been identified to lead on complex cases.
Elsewhere police are also working with businesses to develop the skills of officers, by taking part in security testing initiatives with SMES – while education in schools and colleges to help raise awareness of the risk is also a major priority.
He added: “We also need to get the message out to older people. There is plenty of data which shows that over 55s are the fastest growing age group on Facebook and other social networks. Unfortunately they are very often the group that is least educated to the security threats, which makes them vulnerable online
“We are talking about similar crime that were committed in the 19th and 20th centuries, but adapted for the digital age. No-one over 55 would leave their valuables in their house then go out and leave all the windows and doors open – we are trying to educate them that if they leave their computer open, unsecured and unprotected, then criminals will exploit that.”
Other keynote speakers at the event included Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Governments Cabinet Secretary for Justice, along with industry experts from Microsoft and Sophos.
The new Cyber Resilience Group is a key division of the Scottish Business Crime Centre and is headed by Det Supt Wilson, who is also Head of e-Crime, Specialist Crime Division, with the newly created Police Service of Scotland.
His appointment – the most senior to be made in this field – is the clearest sign yet of the determination to counter e-Crime in Scotland, which is estimated to cost the country £5bn a year.
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One in three people in the UK was a victim of e-Crime in 2012 and one of the most common risks faced by businesses is poor IT security which potentially allows criminals to raid servers, steal identities and infiltrate bank accounts.
But businesses are being encouraged to adopt the 80:20 rule – putting in a basic 20% improvement in anti-virus software and firewalls, could reduce the risk of online crime by 80%.
More information about the e-Crime Scotland Summit or to secure a series of downloadable guides on all areas of e-Crime can be found at www.ecrimescotland.org.uk or the Scottish Business Crime Centre website www.sbcc.org.uk.
www.holyroodpr.co.uk provides public relations in Scotland for the Scottish Business Crime Centre.