Cyber security

Economic downturn + global pandemic = cybercrime gold rush

13 August 2022

Do you remember what you were doing on January 1st, 2020?

Learn how COVID-19 impacted cybercrime

Imagine someone telling you everything that the year 2020 had in store. Panic buying, a global pandemic, mandatory facemask wearing, hand sanitising and numerous worldwide lockdowns. You would never have believed them.

The rise in cybercrime since 2020 – Cybercrime statistics


Let’s take a look at the cybercrime statistics. In 2020, according the an official government survey, ‘almost half of businesses (46%) and a quarter of charities (26%) report having cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months’.

‘One in five (19%) of the 46% have experienced a material outcome, losing money or data’

‘Two in five (39%) were negatively impacted, for example requiring new measures, having staff time diverted or causing wider business disruption’

‘Among the 26 per cent of charities reporting breaches or attacks, a quarter (25%) had material outcomes and over half (56%) were negatively impacted’

As you can see from the cybercrime statistics, one thing that is still being understood is the tsunami of global cyberattacks riding on the back of the worldwide pandemic that began in 2020. From cybercriminals targeting COVID-19 vaccine research to producing fake news, there have been many popular forms of cyberattacks.

2020 was a year that challenged all industries, even more so when they faced a lack of customers, being forced to close due to lockdowns, alongside new, unique difficulties in their IT.

Unfortunately, in a crisis, there are going to be people looking to exploit everyone’s struggles. This has led to a new type of ‘gold’ that is very valuable for cybercriminals.

So what is this new gold? And how can you protect your business from the increasing sophistication and veracity of these cyberattacks?


What is the New Gold?

The new gold is something that cybercriminals have always been after: your personal data and trust. From getting you to divulge everything from bank details to private passwords. What is different now is what makes data and your trust a new goldmine for cybercrime… COVID-19.

Why has cybercrime risen since Covid-19?

COVID-19 has affected everyone, and especially in the early days, caused mass panic and heightened anxiety. In the UK, at the height of infection rates, the government implemented a national lockdown to reduce the spread of coronavirus transmission as well as to help reduce the burden on NHS services so as to not overwhelm the healthcare system and staff.

As shops closed and only essential businesses (such as supermarkets) stayed open, this led to people shopping online for almost everything. From Amazon to supermarket deliveries.

E-commerce has flourished because people have been asked to stay indoors. People have also been searching for information on COVID-19 online.

While this can be positive, it has cultivated an environment where people can be exploited online.

In 2020, cyberattackers have focused on attacks related to COVID-19 to gain a profit. Like many criminals, these attacks prey on people’s trust and fear.

As people have been working from home, they could be working on systems or networks with fewer protections. They may also be using personal computers with fewer cybersecurity features that are now required. And as searches for COVID-19 updates and shopping online increase, this provides opportunities for cyberattackers to exploit this trend for a profit.

How does cybercrime affect society?

For individuals, cybercrime leads to a variety of consequences, from theft of personal information, loss of valuable data, or extortion of money.

For the wider society and systems, they depend on critical IT infrastructures in order to run their businesses or fulfil a widespread service, such as hospitals, financial services, and more. When these are impacted, it can have devastating effects for the wider community.

Why is 'New Gold' so valuable?

The new goldmine for cybercriminals is the ease at which people can be socially engineered and the value of their personal data.

One way this can happen is to prey on their fears to coerce them into spending money on items such as face masks and hand sanitiser; or even manipulate people into paying for things they don’t have, such as a NHS COVID-19 test. With more people online due to lockdown, and mass panic and anxiety in the air, it’s much easier for cybercriminals to exploit users for a profit.

As people work online in different ways, these changes could open gaps for cybercriminals to take advantage of. Think about a link you receive, if you’re working at the office you may be hesitant to click it. But, would you be as cautious opening the same link on your phone? Or whilst your family is distracting you in the background? This has given cybercriminals many opportunities to steal personal information and commit fraud.

To understand further how these cyber-attacks can be so valuable, let’s explore some examples.

How is personal data and trust being mined by cybercriminals?

  • Fake E-Commerce Stores – Cybercriminals could set-up a website selling fake face masks and hand sanitisers. If a site looks legitimate, this could trick people into spending money on items that will never arrive
  • Fake 'Test & Trace' Programs – A phishing email could say you have tested positive for COVID and request bank details to pay for a test
  • Backup Sites – Often, malicious sites will have dormant backups or alternatives in the cloud that manipulate the cloud provider’s resources. This means the scam is extremely hard to prevent

As time has passed, cybercriminals have adapted their strategies.

Here are some ways cyber-attacks have reacted to global priorities:

The change of mining activities in response to global priorities?

When the coronavirus was first said to be a global pandemic by the WHO, cybercriminals saw an opportunity to exploit this. Initially, they targeted people searching for information on infection rates from COVID. They were looking to take advantage of people who may already be anxious and worried. People who are easier targets to manipulate.

Then, they saw an opportunity to exploit is people shopping for essential items (such as PPE, face masks and hand sanitiser). When masks became mandatory to wear in retail shops and supermarkets, the demand for them increased, which made scams involving these products easier to profit from.

What could the future target be for cybercrime?

If you can predict the curve, you can protect yourself online. One prediction involves scams around tickets for COVID-safe venues. Whether the tickets are for gigs or sports matches, cybercriminals could set up fraudulent sites that allow them to make a profit by exploiting people.

With cyberattacks constantly evolving, how do you protect yourself online?

Fool’s Gold: how to make yourself less vulnerable to cyber-attacks

Unfortunately, there is a goldmine that cybercriminals are targeting right now. To be less at risk online, you need to be less vulnerable. But what does this mean? And can you achieve this?

Don't underestimate the importance of an IT Security Provider

Cyber criminals will focus on easy opportunities. Being less vulnerable means having better cyber security; which is why it is best to have a proactive IT Security Provider who can cover your cloud security amongst other things. If a protected company is targeted, the Managed Security Provider can detect and respond to a threat. This makes them a much less valuable target for cyber-attacks.

Here are some ways that an IT Security Provider can support a business:

  • Run best practise assessments – learn why a company or person may be at risk of cyberattacks
  • Consistent security updates – keep your systems up to date and passwords secure
  • Block potentially malicious sites – prevent employees from visiting newly registered domains that are more likely to be scams
  • 24/7 Monitoring – constantly monitor a business’s website for unauthorised alterations to their content
  • Secure your content management system (CMS) – ensure secure passwords and processes are in place across the CMS

With the latest knowledge and security protections, you can prevent cyberattacks. To find out more about cybersecurity, get in touch with our team today:

Contact Us Today

If you’re interested in learning more about Bluecube’s cyber security service, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team. Give us a call at 0845 257 8010 or fill out our online enquiry form, and we’ll be in touch with you shortly.