The coronavirus pandemic has damaged the global economy and caused financial hardships to millions of people around the globe. People lost their jobs and found it difficult to make a living. In order to earn money, many genuine people also took to fraud as a fallback career. This caused a marked change in the top attacking region of 2020 and the geographies where fraud attacks typically originate from.
Europe is the top attacking region of 2020
In 2020, Europe emerged as the top overall region for attacks, followed by Asia, which was traditionally a more active fraud hub. This was because Europe was among the hardest hit geographies by the coronavirus and a resurgent wave of the virus caused many European countries to impose lockdowns yet again towards the end of 2020. As people stayed home, ecommerce increased, which caused a spike in attack rates, especially on payments and during the Black Friday and holiday period. Other industries, especially dating and gaming also saw large volumes of fraud and online abuse. According to our Q1 2021 Fraud and Abuse Report, the attack rate in Europe during Q4, 2020 was 39%, which was largely bot-driven.
It was no surprise that Russia emerged as the top attacking country of 2020 with a massive 52% of all EU-based attacks. Major economies in the Western Europe also contributed to the increased levels of attacks with non-typical fraud nations—the Netherlands, Germany, Ukraine, and Turkey—featuring in the list of top attacking nations. A prominent botnet in the Netherlands was being utilised by multiple fraud operations causing the country to earn the dubious distinction of one of the top attacking regions of 2020. The other top attackers included France, Spain, Poland, and Serbia.
The largest chunk of human-driven attacks at 40% also originated in Europe. Human-driven fraud for fake account registrations contributed 22.5% of the attacks. Once again, Russia was the top attacking region of 2020 when it came to human-driven attacks. It was followed by the United Kingdom. Although the UK is not traditionally known for human-driven fraud, repeated lockdowns and economic hardships are forcing people to turn to fraud.
The top attacking countries in Q4 2020 were dispersed across the globe and contributed a 32% increase in the volume of attacks. Our Q1 2021 Fraud and Abuse Report finds that one in every four attacks in Q4 2020 were from Europe. Russia, however, dropped to the fourth position among the top ten attacking nations during this quarter, while the US was at the top. A lot of malicious activity continued to originate from the UK and the Netherlands in the last quarter of 2020. Africa registered an attack rate of 30% with Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia emerging as the top attacking nations in the continent.
The constant shift in the top attacking regions of 2020
In 2020, there was a marked change in the geographies where fraud attacks originated from. Traditionally, fraud hubs include developing economies and countries where employment opportunities are limited. Fraudsters lure people from these regions as the labour is cheap. However, millions of people around the globe lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In these troubled times, many people took to fraud as an alternate means to tide over the economic turmoil. The economies in the European countries were the worst affected, which resulted in Europe bypassing Asia to emerge as the overall top attacking region of 2020. A majority of attacks from Europe originated from Russia, along with a spike in malicious activity from major economies in Western Europe.
Towards the end of the year, in Q4 2020, Asia re-claimed its position as the most active fraud hub, partly due to the spike in attacks around Singles Day, which is an even bigger online shopping event than Black Friday. Furthermore, as western economies resumed the path to recovery and lockdowns were gradually eased out, the number of people relying on fraud to earn money reduced. That said, the attacks in Europe continued to be at elevated levels, but when compared with the attack levels originating from Asia, they were lower.