Hacking scams cost local businesses close to $3 million during 2016, according to the latest figures by the Australian competition watchdog.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released its Targeting Scams report revealing that the number of people reporting scam activity in Australia was at record levels in 2016.
According to the report, Australians lost nearly $300 million to scams of all kinds in 2016, with a 47 per cent increase in scam reports to the ACCC compared to 2015.
In 2016, the ACCC’s Scamwatch and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) received a combined 200,000 reports about scams. Losses reported to Scamwatch, ACORN and other scam disruption programs totalled $299.8 million.
Losses reported as a result of hacking scams, in paticular, experienced the greatest increase over the year, from $700 000 in 2015 to $2.9 million in 2016.
“One of the most concerning trends has been the four-fold increase in hacking scams,” ACCC deputy chair, Delia Rickard, said in the report’s foreword.
“Businesses have shouldered the brunt of these scams, with over half ($1.7 million) being attributed to businesses in 2016, a substantial increase from the $213 990 lost in 2015.”
The top three scam categories reported to the ACCC were phishing, advance fee frauds and false billing scams, accounting for 36 per cent of all scams recorded in 2016.
Online scams, delivered via the internet, email, social networks and mobile apps, collectively outnumbered phone based scams, according to the report.
Overall, online scam reports increased by 130 per cent from 2015, due to an 85 per cent increase in reports of scams facilitated via email and an 80 per cent increase in reports of social media based scams, the report said.
Altogether, 5953 reports were submitted on behalf of businesses with nearly $3.8 million reported lost to scams. Of this, over $2 million was reported lost by micro and small businesses and the average loss was $10,631.
The highest reported losses among businesses were due to computer hacking.
The report comes as the world’s online community continues to reel from the global malware exploit known as WannaCry, which is already being referred to as the “biggest ransomware outbreak in history”.
Following a weekend of chaos across the globe, more than 75,000 attacks have been reported across 99 countries, with the UK National Health Service (NHS) compromised, the Russian government infected and the Spanish telecommunications sector at a standstill.
The malware, along with its subsequent variants, have locked computers in thousands of locations worldwide, demanding US$300 ransom per machine to be paid in cryptocurrency Bitcoin to unlock devices.
The ransomware attack first spread through a massive email phishing campaign.
As of 14 May, at least one Australian business had been struck down by the ransomware attack, with more local computer systems expected to be hit as the country goes back to work on Monday.