Cyber-criminals are hacking into corporate computer systems and using the public profiles of top executives to fine-tune email scams that are duping Canadians out of hundreds of millions of dollars each year, a CBC News investigation has discovered.
“It came on the scene in a massive way, from virtually nothing to $19 million in 2014” in losses reported, said Daniel Williams of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, a federal government agency.
He also says that research by the CAFC and police suggests that less than three per cent of these email scams ever gets reported, meaning the incidents and the losses are probably much higher.
“Most probably in the range of $500 million to $1 billion,” Williams says. “It’s big, big money. It’s very organized, very sophisticated crime groups with a lot of resources putting a lot of effort … really on an industrial scale.”
Police and security officials warn that among the newer, more sophisticated tricks criminals have learned is how to customize forged emails by using insider information and the names of CEOs and accounting staff to pull off increasingly convincing scams.
These criminals are also netting larger and larger payouts by targeting financial industries, law offices and medium-sized businesses with malicious software that can freeze computer hard drives and hold a company’s data for ransom.