In the wake of Brexit, everyone knows that the political world has been in uproar. So much is happening that the spotlight is, understandably, firmly fixed on those entering and exiting the key political roles. But this huge change doesn't just affect politics; what about the further layer upon layer of repercussions resulting from the UK's exit from the EU?
Sadly, some malignant, unseen forces are now at work, taking advantage of the chaos and, unfortunately for the UK, this means that cybercrime is on the rise. If Brexit could be encapsulated in one word, it would be uncertainty and there is a tidal wave of change looming; increases in cybercrime identity theft and financial fraud may slip under the radar - unless we are careful.
Traditionally understood as principally involving email phishing scams, cybercrime is a massively intricate and complex area which is micro-managed by criminals across the globe. Nigeria shot into the headlines recently with the arrest of a major online scammer, responsible for cybercrimes across the world. There is no doubt that this is a thriving area of criminal activity, but why are experts predicting that Brexit will have a negative effect on the fight against it?
Sticking with what you know
Cybercrime has systematically increased when the world economy has been in disarray or after big, natural disasters. These heightened states of vulnerability, fear and confusion attract criminal gangs who aim to capitalise by taking advantage of the uncertainty. And in the case of Brexit this is more serious because it involves a prolonged period of adjustment involving the changing and merging of UK and EU laws. The likely conflicts of law give an advantage to cross-border cyber criminals because they operate globally and there will no longer be one "catch all" solution to be used.
The inevitable changes in security laws that the UK will see can, ultimately, allow a way in for criminals. Multiple laws operating around a certain topic generates confusion and potentially more and serious breaches of consumer data. Brexit may mean that social divisions become more apparent and particular areas to be targeted are controversial topics which generate a high level of interest, including state benefits and immigration issues. EU data privacy rules are also likely to be revamped and spam emails sent with innocuous wording such as "Interest rate update" or "Latest FTSE news" apparently offering security against potential financial changes encourage recipients to open the email and attachments. This then allows significant malware to be rapidly and effectively installed on the victim's computer which can harvest personal and financial information, such as bank details, or, perhaps more maliciously , it can encrypt personal data which the cybercriminals then demand a ransom for. For the victim, it's often seen as more straightforward to pay the money asked than to embark on decryption which is why this is a favoured method for the criminals.
Prevention is better than cure
Clearly, steps need to be taken to address the likely rise of cybercrime and the most effective method will be to offer greater protection against it. There must be clear, concise security guidelines immediately available and, arguably most importantly, reducing the chaotic uncertainty surrounding Brexit is imperative. Removing the uncertainty will drastically reduce online criminal accessibility to the most vulnerable groups. In addition, managing the UK and EU data privacy laws effectively to facilitate a smooth segue between them will remain one of the most effective weapons against the cybercriminals who are constantly and rapaciously looking to take advantage of the population of a post-Brexit UK.
It remains possible to effectively protect against online scams, but it also requires a co-ordinated, well-constructed, timely approach from those bodies responsible for security. Increasing awareness of cybercrime will be a powerful tool in helping to ensure that this happens.
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