Cybercrime is becoming a sophisticated business in its own right

Bank of Ireland head of Tech, Media and Telecoms Paul Swift warns that cybercriminals are embracing ‘crime-as-a-service’ business practices.

The Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) 2021 was published recently, combining contributions from both European law enforcement and private sector partners relating to evolving threats from cybercrime over the previous twelve months.

Some of the key findings of the report refers to how ransomware affiliate programs, where a ransomware operator provides malware (malicious software that is created to steal data, harm a device, or corrupt files) code to third parties, each affiliate is provided a version of the code with unique identification embedded.

“Phishing and social engineering remain the main vectors for payment fraud and are increasing in both volume and sophistication”

For every victim that pays a ransom, the affiliate gets a share of the take with the ransomware operator. Many of these incidents have focused on supply-chain attacks to compromise the networks of large corporations and public institutions.

The report also refers to “Crime as a Service”, where fraudsters are making available exploit kits and other services to other criminals with low technical skills to enable them to embark on further perpetration of these crimes. To this end, European law enforcement agencies have reported an increase in “Malware as a Service” offerings, where the various threat actors all share profits with partners once they execute their crime either through a breaching a network or deploying the malware, which is effectively sponsoring a growth in this activity. Phishing and social engineering remain the main vectors for payment fraud and are increasing in both volume and sophistication.

The growth in sophistication of the various threats is also evidenced by Europol providing support to high-profile cross-border operations against cyber threats that have increased from 57 operations in 2013 to 430 in 2020.

Venture capital funding up 19% in Q3 2021

Some welcome news for the start-up community as funding continues to recover over the third quarter. The Irish Venture Capital Association (IVCA) recently published their latest VenturePulse survey which shows that venture capital funding into Irish SMEs increased by 19% to €231m, compared to €193m for the same period last year.

Funding for the first nine months of the year, to the end of September was also up to €872m 11% from €786m last year. The survey also shows a notable increase in seed funding; the fuel that powers most start-ups, rose by 63% to €31m, up from €19m.

Based on these numbers, funding across the board has recovered significantly from last year. Year to date, Life Sciences accounted for 38% (€329m) of the total funding during the period, followed by software 24% (€207m) and fintech at 11% (€96m).

Enterprise Ireland Digitalisation Voucher

Time is running out for Enterprise Ireland clients to apply for a Digitalisation voucher as the scheme ends in December.

The voucher covers either technical or advisory services related to the operations of a business from an approved service provider up to a value of €9,000. Once commenced, it is expected that the support can be spread out over a maximum of 6 weeks.

The project must include one or more of the following: internal process optimisation, enhancing customer digital experience or assist in becoming a datadriven business.

The expected output at the end of the engagement will be the development of a plan and strategy to tackle the issues identified within the business.

Note: This scheme is open to companies that operate in the manufacturing or internationally traded services sectors.

Technology Ireland Awards 2021

Technology Ireland recently celebrated the 29th year of their awards.

Global Shares, which is headquartered in Clonakilty, Co Cork was named Technology Ireland Company of the Year. Global Shares manages employee stock plans for some of the world’s biggest companies.

It has sales in more than 100 countries and based on its current growth level, could well become another member of Ireland’s growing list of ‘unicorns’.

Developments & Insights December 2021
Paul Swift
Paul Swift is head of Technology, Media and Telecoms sector at Bank of Ireland.