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European cyber attacks up nearly a third in first quarter of the year

Written by  May 17, 2018

Digital transactions in Europe were hit by 30% more cyber attacks in the first three months of 2018 than in the first quarter of the previous year, data shows.

European digital businesses faced 80 million fraud attempts as they experienced more pronounced spikes of peak attack periods throughout the first quarter compared with previous years, according to the latest cyber crime report for Europe by risk firm ThreatMetrix.

The report is based on analysis of 1.9 billion digital transactions on the ThreatMetrix Digital Identity Network in Europe.

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There has been an evolution from short, isolated peaks of fraud attacks to more sustained, high-volume attacks across a number of days or even weeks, the report said.

As a result, it said the onus was on European digital businesses to invest in innovative, real-time security capabilities that are robust enough to withstand these intense periods of attack.

Identity spoofing also saw a significant uptick across the region, resulting from the vast swathes of stolen personal data now available on the dark web. In Germany, for example, identity spoofing attacks more than doubled compared with the first quarter of 2017.

The high volume of attacks originating from Germany across the board led to the country featuring in the list of the top five perpetrators of attacks globally, alongside the UK.

The downstream effect of identity abuse in the wake of major data breaches is particularly felt in the European e-commerce market, which was the hardest hit industry in terms of the number of cyber attacks.

According to the report, 60 million e-commerce transactions were rejected as fraudulent in the first quarter of 2018, which is a 47% increase over the previous year.

There is a particular focus on identity testing activities targeting the e-commerce sector, with fraudsters looking to capitalise on the low-friction approach taken by many merchants aimed at increasing online revenues and encouraging customer loyalty in a fiercely competitive market, the report said.

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“As European digital businesses face intense onslaughts of identity abuse and fraud attacks, they need to prioritise investments in new technologies that give insight into the true identity of their users in a way that is invisible to the consumer,” said Alisdair Faulkner, chief products officer at ThreatMetrix.

“This enables them to provide the low-friction experience they need to grow their business, without compromising on security,” he said.

The study also revealed that Europe is turning to mobile as the secure digital channel, with 58% of all transactions coming from mobile devices.

This is higher than the global average of 51% and this trend is particularly pronounced in the UK, which sees 67% of transactions coming from mobile. Key mobile growth regions include France and central and eastern Europe, where mobile transactions grew 96% and 63% respectively.

The banking sector is helping to drive this uptick in mobile transactions, the report said, with 73% of all UK banking transactions coming from mobile devices, for example.

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Not only does mobile banking suit the on-the-go modern consumer and encourage loyalty due to increased user engagement, it is also proving to be the more secure channel, the report noted.

Across all industries, mobile transactions were attacked half as much compared with desktop transactions. Although the volume of attacks on mobile transactions is rising, this will remain the more secure way to transact online for the foreseeable future, the report said.

“When employing the correct technology, the mobile channel offers a wealth of opportunities to identify consumers in a way that is persistent and reliable, but totally invisible to the user,” said Faulkner.

“Mobile users have zero tolerance for being slowed down by clunky security steps, but the future of this channel relies on the continued ability of digital businesses to offer consumers peace of mind that their identity and financial information is secure,” he said.

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