Europol boss Rob Wainright has warned that ransomware attacks now number as many as 4000 per day, with cybercrime operations large and sophisticated enough to threaten critical infrastructure.
Speaking at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, the director of the EU agency claimed the financial sector is particularly at risk from crime “conglomerations” with corporate structures, featuring specialized groups.
This has enabled a doubling or tripling of various threats on an almost annual basis, he claimed.
“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,” Wainright told Reuters.
“The real threat comes from a sort of exponential, remorseless increase in the scale and significance of cyber-criminal capability.”
The majority of cyber-criminals Europol faces are Russian speaking, he added.
“There is this sort of cyber-criminal underworld that’s a lot bigger and smarter and adept than most people think,” Wainwright said. “And, against it, we still have generally low cyber security standards.”
The biggest recent threat to critical infrastructure came from the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks of May and June, which used NSA exploits to help spread worm-like around the world.
A recent National Audit Office (NAO) report revealed that over a third (34%) of NHS Trusts and nearly 600 GP practices were disrupted because of WannaCry — which could have been stopped with a simple Microsoft patch.
Simon Rodway, consultant at security firm Entersekt, said the existence of criminal conglomerates has been known about in the industry for some time.
“This is one of the reasons why we believe innovation in terms of digital security solutions is crucial,” he added. “For financial institutions, implementing solutions that provide strong authentication and authorization measures can protect customers from cyber-attacks that are indeed becoming increasingly sophisticated.”
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