The “remorseless” growth of cyber crime is leading to 4,000 ransom attacks a day and gangs’ technological capability now threatens critical parts of the financial sector, the head of Europol said on Wednesday.
Online criminals have become so sophisticated that gangs have created “conglomerations” with company structures that specialize in different criminal activities to carry out the attacks, Rob Wainwright, who leads the EU law enforcement agency, said.
“What really concerns me is the sophistication of the capability, which is becoming good enough to really threaten parts of our critical infrastructure, certainly in the financial, banking sector,” he told Reuters.
And while not all those 4,000 ransom attacks – which demand money to restore access to files that have been frozen or encrypted – are on banks, the financial services sector is seen as a key target because of the potential profits for the criminals.
Even bank payment systems and ATM cash machines fall prey, Wainwright said.
The launch of ransomware attacks such as Wannacry, which struck firms around the world in May and June, has changed the dynamic of such attacks, by propagating them more widely through companies’ computer systems, Wainwright said.
The rapidly spreading extortion campaigns underscored concerns that businesses have failed to secure their networks from increasingly aggressive hackers, who have shown they are capable of shutting down critical infrastructure and crippling corporate and government networks.