Financial losses to cybercrime dip despite scammers moving to text message scams

Financial losses reported to CERT NZ between April and June totalled $4.2 million – down $1.6m from last quarter – while the total number of reports remains steady. The number of reported scams also dropped off, a 24% decrease from quarter one this year.

13 September 2023

These numbers come from CERT NZ's latest Cyber Security Insights report. The lower scam and fraud numbers are likely the cause of the lower financial losses, but the reason behind the drop in scams is unknown.

"It's good to see that reports are still coming in steadily," CERT NZ Director Rob Pope said. "While a dip in losses is also good, $4.2m is still a big number and we'd like to see that fall even further."

The Insights report looks closer at text message-based phishing– aka "smishing". CERT NZ has seen more and more cyber criminals using smishing to bolster regular phishing tactics. And reports to CERT NZ about phishing (including smishing) increased 26%.

The text messages, and links in them, change rapidly, and people need to remain alert to not be caught out, as they can quickly lead to severe losses.

"At the moment everyone knows about the 'NZTA scam'," Pope said, "but tomorrow it could change to be another organisation or another scam message. They could change tactics to include a phone number 'for more information' and get you that way."

"We want to ensure that New Zealanders are alert and secure at all times."

Discovering and disclosing vulnerabilities is another important part of cyber security. The Insights report highlights the avenues that businesses can report or receive reports of vulnerabilities and why this is so important.

CERT NZ is part of an international movement calling on companies that make software to be 'secure by default and design'. Part of this is having a disclosure policy in place to allow researchers to report vulnerabilities when they are found.

"Disclosing vulnerabilities is vital for good cyber security practices", Manager of Threat and Incident Response, Jordan Heersping said. "Knowing where the holes are and creating patches for them, is one way that we stay ahead of the cybercriminals. We also need to do our part, as users, and ensure all our systems are updated when those updates are released."