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Human like e-commerce cyberattacks proliferate during pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the fastest transition of customers moving to the online space and witnessed an unprecedented surge in the creativity of credential-stealing cyberattacks.

Now, online companies adapting their business models to enhance online servicing have to grapple with growing customer needs and more human-looking attacks.

A new report, based on NuData intelligence, highlights the changes in user habits and online threats, and will help companies prepare for the remainder of challenges and opportunities in 2020 – and beyond.

From January 1 to June 30, NuData analysts closely monitored global online changes across its network, and summarised the key findings to help make sense of what’s happening in the threat landscape.

Human-looking or sophisticated attacks, those that focus on quality instead of volume, continue to increase. Over the last six months, the report found that almost all attacks against financial institutions were sophisticated attacks.

These are high-quality attacks that try to resemble human behaviour and often include human intervention, for example, to solve a CAPTCHA. This sophistication allows them to bypass common security layers, such as bot detection tools.

cyberattacks by number 2020Cyberattacks: The first half of 2020 in numbers:

  • More attacks look like humans – 96% of login attacks on financial institutions were sophisticated – those that make an extra effort to emulate human behaviour.
  • Account creation attacks increased as people stayed home during the pandemic – High-risk account creation attempts among a number of merchants increased after the lockdowns began.
  • Chargeback dollar values more than doubled – In North America, once the lockdowns were in place, the average dollar value of a chargeback grew by 124% for in-store pickup (chargebacks issued for various reasons after the goods were picked up), compared to the average dollar value before the movement restrictions.
  • Attacks leveraged the mobile channel – Mobile high-risk traffic grew 55%.
  • Travel-related traffic started coming back as communities opened – After traffic volumes hit their lowest levels in April due to the pandemic, the travel industry has started to recover, with a 360% increase in traffic since April.

Sophisticated cyberattacks on FIs

Financial institutions (FIs) receive the highest percentage of sophisticated attacks amongst all industries, with 96%, up from 90% in 2019.

After grappling with basic attacks for some time, FIs have steadily improved their security tools to detect and mitigate basic, volume-focused attacks. As a result, bad actors who know their basic attacks won’t work against FIs, are forced to use more sophisticated attacks that could bypass bot-detection security tools.

Sophisticated vs Basic cyberattacks by industry 2020

Similarly, as bad actors see their basic scripts fail against financial institutions, they move those attacks to other industries where they may be more successful. It’s a clear case of recycling attack vectors across industries before working on improving them.

The report notes that there is an expectation to continue seeing human-looking attacks increase across all industries.

As companies get wise to fraudsters and improve their bot-detection tools, fraudsters are forced to find another way in and rely more on sophisticated attacks to help them access protected platforms.

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