US Revealed As ‘Hotspot for Cybercrime’ in Global Study | #cybercrime | #infosec

An international team of researchers have compiled the first ever World Cybercrime Index, which identifies the United States as one of the globe’s most significant sources of cybercrime.

The World Cybercrime Index, compiled by scientists at the University of New South Wales Canberra in Australia and the University of Oxford in the U.K., shows that a relatively small number of countries house the greatest cybercriminal threat.

Russia tops the list, followed by Ukraine, China, the United States, Nigeria, and Romania.

Cybercrime is any criminal act dealing with computers and ranges from money laundering to hacking and fraud.

Researchers put together the list by gathering data via a survey of 92 leading cybercrime experts from around the world. The experts are involved in cybercrime intelligence gathering and investigations.

The questionnaire asked the experts to consider five major categories of cybercrime and nominate the countries that they consider to be the most significant sources of each of these types of cybercrime.

They were then asked to rank each country according to the impact, professionalism and technical skill of its cybercriminals.

A stock photo shows a man holding some banknotes in front of a computer. The large number of U.S. financial institutions and retailers makes for a wide range of targets for cybercriminals.


Study co-author Jonathan Lusthaus, associate professor in global sociology at the University of Oxford, told Newsweek that the United States and other Western countries may rank highly in the index because of the “cashing out/money-laundering” survey category.

“Whatever kind of cyber-attack or scam that is carried out often requires people on the ground to receive the illicit gains and then get them back to the organizers,” he said.

“If we take the example of online scams, it is less suspicious to a person in say the United States who is trying to buy something online to be paying someone else in the U.S., using a U.S. bank account or other local payment system.

“If suddenly you were being asked to pay funds into an account in Nigeria, Romania or Russia, you may think twice,” he explained. “So, over time, a whole cashing out speciality has emerged, whereby cybercrime operations need people in the same place as the victims to receive funds and move them on.”

Thomas Holt, a professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University who was not involved in the research, added that the U.S. experiences virtually all forms of cybercrime.

“The U.S. is likely a hotspot for cybercrime for a variety of factors,” he told Newsweek. “One issue is the limited policing of certain forms of cybercrime. Computer hacking activities are often difficult for local agencies to investigate, and so it falls to state or federal agencies.”

In the U.S., the large number of financial institutions and retailers also makes for a wide range of targets for cybercriminals.

“We also know the U.S. has a high degree of technological access via tablets and mobile devices, and relatively good internet connectivity, creating a target-rich environment for all manner of offenses,” he said.

However, Holt added, cybercrime activity is not currently captured in the traditional sources for crime statistics, such as the Uniform Crime Reporting Program or The National Crime Victimization Survey. Therefore, it is difficult to know the extent to which these crimes occur.

“There is sufficient evidence to tell us that the U.S. experiences a lot of financial crimes–data breaches, hacking, fraud–as well as a range of person-based offenses with particular emphasis on child sexual exploitation crimes as they are currently one of the only cybercrimes that are captured well in police data,” Holt explained.

The index and full findings of the research are published in the journal PLOS One.

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