Ministry: Cyber crime fell 25 percent on year to 2022

SMART-ID is a trustworthy and widely-used authentication system in Estonia, though even here care should be taken when being asked to provide your PIN.
SMART-ID is a trustworthy and widely-used authentication system in Estonia, though even here care should be taken when being asked to provide your PIN. Source: ERR

Cyber crime fell 25 percent on year to 2022, the Ministry of Justice reports. This was the first fall in computer-based crime reported in Estonia for a decade.

The number of cyber crimes totalled 1,200 in 2022, the ministry says, and despite the fall, also revealed some growing trends and the ever-present importance of being vigilant.

Ministry analysis department chief Mari-Liis Sööt said of the types of incidents that: "In terms of cyber crime, last year was dominated by phishing calls and messages, as well as hijacking of social media and email accounts."

"There were fewer Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes than before, though the sending of fraudulent messages started to become a bit more widespread," Sööt added, via a ministry press release.

A typical case involving taking over social media or emails accounts, as noted quite a common feature of cyber crime last year, would involve the takeover of a Facebook or email account, which the genuine owner could then no longer access.

The average age of victims of such crimes was 33 years of age, the ministry adds.

Six percent of perpetrators of computer crime, excluding scams seeking financial benefit, were minors, the ministry adds, whose pecadilloes included hacking school sites.

"For example, posts and invitations from teachers' accounts were made as a joke. A total of 19 hijackings of school and e-school accounts were registered, which was significantly more than ever before," Sööt continued.

Of overall cyber crime victims, 36-year-old women represented the average, the ministry went on.

Victims of fraudlent phone calls were, in 71 percent of cases, Russian-speaking.

With fraudulent SMS messages, just over half (56 percent) of victims were native Estonian speakers.

Fraudulent calls and messages accounted for 30 percent of the total number of cyber crime incidents, the ministry adds.

Eighteen percent of computer system crime victims were businesses, the ministry says.

A typical phone scammer would introduce themselves as a bank employee, a Google security employee or a police officer, and went on to issue a warning that a victim's account was experiencing suspicious activity, one required PIN codes to be entered to prevent it. 

Veikko Raasuke, cyber security expert at the State Information System Board X (RIA), said that account hijacking was one of the main reasons why his authority was approached last year. 

Raasuke warned against the folly of opening suspicious links or files, and of too readily providing personal data – suggesting by analogy that one think of doing so as if one would uncritically give out one's home address, phone number etc. to a stranger, if approached in the street.

Multi-level authentication can help protect social media accounts, he added.

"In this case, a username and password are not enough to take over your account; a confirmation code that only you have access to would be required," Raasuke said.

Of other "ordinary" scams, slightly more than half used a computer, but these are not reflected in cyber crime stats as outline above.

A total of 2,576 scams, by any means, were reported last year, about 2,000 of which likely involved a computer at some point, the ministry says.

If you have concerns you may have been the victim of cyber crime or attempted cyber crime, in Estonia, you should report this to the [email protected] state email address.

RIA also recommends installing a solution on your smartphone which protects smart devices from malicious web links and malware. Such DNS apps are available on smartphone app stores and from other places, while further information is available from the RIA site here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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