The most common time for people to suddenly get serious about cyber crime? Right after they fall victim to it. But for high-net-worth individuals, the cost of such a wake-up call can be far too high.
The good news is wealthy people are already worried about cyber crime. A 2016 poll of high-net-worth investors by Morgan Stanley found 72 per cent listed identity theft as an issue they were most worried about.
They ought to be. Australia is rife with online crime and trends suggest the pursuit of high-value targets is increasing.
Australia ranked fourth in the FBI’s 2016 Internet Crime Report for number of victims, ahead of several larger countries, including France and Germany. Meanwhile, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network is recording a steady increase in cyber crime: 11,800 scams and other crimes were reported in the three months between April and June 2017, up from 10,800 in the same period in 2016. Email was the most popular vector for attack in both years.
Cyber crime follows the money. Attacks sometimes hit large organisations with a presumed ability to pay. We hear about these when the organisations are obliged to report on them, or because the attack shuts them down, as with the ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attack on Britain's National Heath Service. But organisations are far from the only targets.
When hackers target individuals the attacks are far less public. KPMG Risk Consulting partner Stan Gallo has been involved in several cyber-crime cases involving prominent figures that have never been made public.
“For reputational reasons, et cetera, most victims want to keep that information confidential,” Gallo says.
High net worth individuals are at particular risk. Not only do they have resources hackers would like to appropriate, but often also a public profile that facilitates information gathering. The intent can be to steal, to extort or to publicly embarrass.
The practice is sometimes known as ‘spear-phishing’. Specific targets are identified and pursued, using high effort in the expectation of high reward.
Cyber-crime targeting individuals is largely hidden from public view. We hear of a few especially high-profile cases. The following are exceptions:
- A large number of celebrities including film actor Jennifer Lawrence had photographs leaked online in 2014.
- David Beckham had emails leaked when his public relations agency was the victim of an extortion attempt.