- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2017

The FBI’s cybercrime office received nearly 300,000 complaints in 2016 totaling losses of more than $1.3 billion, up nearly a quarter from a year before, the agency said Thursday.

In all the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received a total of 298,728 complaints last year concerning malicious activity attributed to about $1.33 billion in losses, according to its latest annual report, published Thursday.

Overall, last year’s figures are up from 2015 when the IC3 received 288,012 complaints involving $1.07 billion in losses — 24 percent less than the FBI’s latest tally.

“The FBI is the lead federal agency for investigating cyber attacks by criminals, overseas adversaries and terrorists,” Scott Smith, assistant director of the bureau’s cyber division, wrote in this year’s report. “With each passing day, cyber intrusions are becoming more sophisticated, dangerous and common. We continue to transform and develop in order to address the persistent and evolving cyber threats we face.”

The most profitable type of cybercrime reported last year — a scam commonly known as “Business Email Compromise,” or “BEC” — earned fraudsters over $360.5 million from about 12,000 victims in 2016, the report said. BEC scams are carried out by tricking targets into conducting unauthorized bank transfers and are typically leveled against corporations that regularly perform international transactions. The IC3 only began receiving complaints about BEC in 2010, but included it last year’s report at the top of its list of “hot topics for 2015.”

While ranked low on this year’s report in terms of damages, the IC3 said it received 2,673 complaints involving ransomware in 2016 totaling over $2.4 million in losses — a significantly higher sum than the $1.6 million in damages caused by ransomware a year before. Like BEC scams, ransomware has proven to be increasingly popular with cybercriminals, evidenced internationally last month when more than a million computers in 150 countries became infected with a strain known as WannaCry, a debilitating ransomware worm responsible for seizing systems used by victims including Russia’s central bank and Britain’s National Health Service, among others.

The IC3 was established in 2000 and has since received a total of over 1.4 million complaints totaling more than $4.6 billion in reported losses — or about 800 a day, according to this year’s report.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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