The number of cyber attack victims is likely to rise along with a growing demand for so called “hackers for hire”, UK experts have warned.
The National Cyber Security Centre – a part of GCHQ – has released a new report warning thousands of people are almost certainly already being targeted every year through the “irresponsible use of spyware.”
The proliferation of commercial cyber tools is set to lead to an increased threat to individuals and organisations worldwide, it warns.
It highlights the purchase of intrusion software by more than 80 countries over the past decade.
Some states have almost certainly used this irresponsibly to target journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents and opponents and foreign government officials, the report says.
Jonathon Ellison, NCSC director of resilience and future tech, said: ”Over the next five years, the proliferation of cyber tools and services will have a profound impact on the threat landscape, as more state and non-state actors obtain capabilities and intelligence not previously available to them.
“Our new assessment highlights that the threat will not only become greater but also less predictable as more hackers for hire are tasked with going after a wider range of targets and off-the-shelf products and exploits lower the barrier to entry for all.
“To maintain safety in cyberspace it is crucial these capabilities are managed with a responsible, proportionate and legally sound approach and working with international partners, the UK is determined to address this rising challenge.”
To tackle the threat from proliferation, the report suggests the commercial intrusion sector would benefit from a joined-up approach to international oversight over the next five years.
Its publication comes as CyberUK 2023, the UK’s flagship cyber security event, kicks off in Belfast on Wednesday.
A panel of experts will discuss the rise in commercially available spyware during a plenary session.
Among speakers expected at the event are and NCSC chief executive Lindy Cameron and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden.