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Cybercrime and internet fraud losses total in the billions in 2020

March 25, 2021
By: Connor LaVelle

Over the course of 2020, Americans reported a total of $4.2 billion in losses due to internet fraud and cybercrime, an increase from the $3.5 billion reported in 2019. In addition, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center experienced a record number of reports surrounding cybercrime and internet fraud: 791,790 total complaints were filed throughout 2020, a 69 percent increase from 2019. The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center’s recently released Internet Crime Report 2020 also finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new targets for internet criminals as both individuals and businesses reported online financial crimes surrounding the CARES Act stimulus funds, including the Paycheck Protection Program and unemployment insurance fraud.

While the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center details the rise in several methods of cybercrime that can threaten individuals, ransomware has emerged as a persistent threat to state and local governments throughout the country. Ransoming Government, a 2020 report released by the Deloitte Center for Government Insights, finds that governments are particularly susceptible to ransomware attacks due to a variety of factors.

As governments continue to increase their online presence and expand their digital footprint, their vulnerability increases as well. This is coupled with the fact that governments may not always keep pace with the changes and advancements in technology, increasing their likelihood of attack. Beyond the dangers of a growing network and outdated hardware, state and local governments have found it difficult to attract and retain a sufficient level of trained cybersecurity staff. The Deloitte report notes that cybersecurity staff are in demand throughout all sectors of business and limited budgets for technology within governments make it difficult to build a proficient cybersecurity staff.

The Deloitte report found that most states spend 1 to 2 percent of their information technology budget on cybersecurity while noting that almost half of the states within the country do not have a cybersecurity budget that is independent from their IT budget.

Beyond increasing their IT budgets, governments can also protect against cyberattacks through adjustments to their system architecture including disabling extraneous services on network devices and developing system backups that do not have connections to external links. Additionally, the Deloitte report recommends that a government’s employees, regardless of their role, build a basic understanding of cybersecurity and the risks associated with cyberattacks to help be more aware and better prepared moving forward.

The full FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center report may be accessed here.

The full report by the Deloitte Center for Government Insights may be found here.