PwC report: Cybercrime hits Irish firms at record levels

Pádraig Hoare

Half of Irish businesses were victims of economic crime in the past two years, with cybercrime hitting record levels and doubling global levels.

That is according to PwC’s bi-annual survey of business crime, which found 49% of Irish companies have experienced economic crime over the last two years, up from 34% in 2016 and 26% in 2010.

The report said that of reported crimes, 61% experienced cybercrime, up from 44% globally. Reported incidents of cybercrime in Irish firms is double that of global counterparts, the report said.

Cybercrime has overtaken asset misappropriation (29%) for the first time, while consumer fraud (42%) and business misconduct (16%) also feature prominently, PwC said.

Detective Chief Superintendent, Patrick Lordan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, warned economic crime is becoming more prevalent and more costly for Irish businesses, exacerbated by the spike in cybercrime.

“It is encouraging to see that Irish companies are spending significant resources in the combat of crime and it is essential that these efforts continue.

“In a world that has become ever more complex, we will continue to work with businesses, the Government, the ODCE, regulators and international colleagues in the prevention and detection of economic crime and fraud,” he said.

Europol, the EU-wide police network, has warned the global impact of cybercrime has risen to €2.5 trillion, making it “more profitable than the global trade in marijuana, cocaine, and heroin combined”.

A survey last year by British IT research firm Juniper found criminal data breaches will cost businesses a total of €7trn over the next five years, due to higher levels of internet connectivity and inadequate enterprise-wide security. It found that SMEs were particularly at risk from cyber attacks.

The Central Bank last week fined an asset management company after it lost €650,000 of a client’s funds in an online scam.

Appian Asset Management was fined €443,000 and reprimanded by the regulator for admitting “significant breaches across client asset, anti-money laundering, and fitness and probity regulation”.

The PwC report found more than one in 10 firms lost over €4m to economic crime in the last two years, while another 66% lost up to €810,000, mostly fuelled by cybercrime.

PwC Ireland cyber leader, Pat Moran said: “Actual crime could well be higher than reported crime which makes the findings from this survey even more concerning. What the survey is clearly showing us is that there is a better understanding of what fraud is through risk assessments and where it is taking place through cyber security programs.”

However, there remained complacency among some firms, Mr Moran warned.

“Despite the progress in understanding and reporting, the fact that 51% say they have not, or don’t know if they have experienced fraud in the past two years, suggests blind spots still exist in many organisations.”

Phishing was the most prominent (66%) technique for targeted cyber attacks, followed by malware at 56% ---substantially less for global companies at 33% and 36% respectively.

Just over half of Irish participants had increased the level of spending on efforts to combat fraud in the last two years, compared to just 42% globally

Some 59% are planning to step-up these efforts in the next two years compared to 44% globally, the report found.

Six out of 10 Irish firms performed fraud risk assessments in the last two years, slightly more than their global counterparts.

However, four out of ten Irish companies have not yet undertaken any fraud risk assessments.

Mr Moran said: “The funds allocated to crime detection and prevention are increasing, with Irish companies investing more than global companies, and that has a multiplier effect.”

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