A report out earlier this year indicated that robbing banks in the UK is a risky business, and not very lucrative at that: Bank burglars in Great Britain net an average of less than the equivalent of $20,000 per job, meaning that they’d have to rob at least two banks a year to earn a modest living. And with an increasing array of security measures at banks’ disposals, it’s no wonder that there were only 106 robberies and attempted robberies in 2007, the year of the UK study.
Put together high risk and little reward, and it doesn’t take a genius to see that a career in bank robbery isn’t worth the trouble. But there’s a vast world of burglary awaiting the would-be thief that is far easier, safer and potentially far more lucrative than any traditional heist job: Cybercrime.
Today’s burglary tools for the common cybercriminal are readily accessible through the nearest search engine. No longer do attackers need exclusive information, they can simply surf the web to buy such trade staples as remote-access Trojans, rootkits, exploit kits and all sorts of other goodies that enable them to exploit computer systems, access sensitive data and abscond with it without anyone being the wiser.
Hard data on the financial impact of global cybercrime is murky, since many attacks are unnoticed and go unreported, but estimates put the grand total in the tens of billions of dollars. As our lives become increasingly intertwined with Internet technologies, there is obviously no shortage of potential targets for cybercriminals – unlike neighborhood banks for outdated, would-be-John-Dillingers. And while takedowns of major global cyberthieves make major news, the vast majority run free on the Internet without ever coming close to being caught.
It all adds up to a head-scratcher: It is easier, safer and more lucrative than ever to commit cybercrime, but it isn’t running rampant in our digital streets. Why not?
It would be nice to think it’s because people are just good at heart, but it could be that the industry is evolving faster than any widespread knowledge of it is; most would-be hackers may simply not know how easy and profitable it can be. As that changes, cybercrime could grow more prevalent. Then, too, law enforcement officials may take the matter more seriously and crack down with stiffer penalties.
For now, we can be glad that cybercrime isn’t a devastating problem while crossing our collective fingers that it stays that way a while longer.