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Networked bot attacks increase as human-initiated attack levels fall

By Ryan Morris-Reade, Wed 15 Sep 2021

A new report reveals that bot attack volumes grew 41% year over year, with human-initiated attacks falling 29% in the first half of 2021. 

LexisNexis Risk Solutions has released the findings from its latest biannual Cybercrime Report. The report confirms earlier trend patterns showing the financial services industry and media businesses bear the brunt of increased automated bot network attacks.

The Cybercrime Report is an analysis of transaction data from the LexisNexis Digital Identity Network. It analysed 28.7 billion transactions over six months, up 28% year over year, attributed to increased transaction volumes from existing customers and an increased customer base. 

According to LexisNexis, the increased shift to digital payments seen across advanced economies during the pandemic appears to be a permanent change. The company says accelerated digital transformation in emerging economies and industries continues to drive transaction growth and catch the attention of fraudsters.

The first half of 2021 saw geographical shifts in attack volume. Based on bot IP addresses, Mexico joins Brazil on the top ten list of largest originators of bot attacks by volume, further establishing Latin America (LATAM) as a hotspot for automated and human-initiated attacks. 

Attack rates originating from North America and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) have historically been similar and lower than the other regions. Since March 2021, however, North America recorded higher daily attack rates that now exceed those in EMEA, marking a sustained change in cybercriminal behaviour in the U.S. and Canada, which LexisNexis says may be linked to an earlier transition towards a post-pandemic world.

Some key findings from the report, January to June 2021:

  • Bot attacks increase globally: All regions have recorded growth in bot volume between January-June 2021 compared to the same period last year. This was most marked in the Asia Pacific (APAC) and LATAM regions, with EMEA experiencing the smallest growth.
  • Industry innovations altered risk profiles: The online payment market continues to increase and diversify. Buy now pay later (BNPL) services and digital wallets are becoming an increasingly popular payment method, with BNPL transactions growing 182% year-over-year. This growth is likely to continue as it caters to the increasing number of consumers transacting online. However, it also creates new avenues of attack for cybercriminals.
  • Financial services institutions deployed new methods to track money mules: Advances in beneficiary intelligence within the Digital Identity Network are making it less complicated for banks and other payment service providers to track payment transfers involved in money mule activity. This includes when the beneficiary tries to hide their tracks by splitting the initial payment and routing it via other entities in the payment network.

"Today's report not only confirms cybercriminal reliance on automated processes but also highlights that fraudsters are further establishing sophisticated and expansive networks to conduct fraud," says LexisNexis Risk Solutions VP of fraud and identity, Stephen Topliss. 

"Explosive transaction and user growth rates in industry sectors such as virtual banks and buy now, pay later, are likely exposing emergent risks for these newer businesses as they grab the attention of fraudsters. The digital companies that survive and thrive will deploy layered cybercrime prevention solutions as they scale."

 

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