Symantec reveals biggest security threats of 2015

500m digital identities were stolen, while technical support scams increased 200 per cent year-on-year

Symantec has revealed 500m digital identities were stolen in 2015, while ransomware attacks were up 35 per cent and technical support scams increased by 200 per cent year-on-year.

The digital identities were stolen via large-scale data breaches, which, the company said, were on a much larger scale than previous years.

The security firm's report exposed the biggest security threats of last year, saying many of the attacks were made possible because of software bugs that were previously unknown by developers and companies responsible for keeping personal details safe.

The vast majority of attacks were carried out by gangs posing as software companies that could easily trick victims into sharing details unknowingly, Symantec explained. Some of these criminals have set up call centres set up specifically to con people.

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"They have extensive resources and highly skilled technical staff that operate with such efficiency that they maintain normal business hours and even take the weekends and holidays off," said Kevin Haley, director of Symantec security said.

The types of support scams people were fooled by included the tricksters phoning up members of the public, claiming to be a support service. Victims would then pay for non-existent faults to be fixed on their computers. Another popular scam revealed by Symantec was via a fake pop-up on websites that would claim the victim's computer was infected by a virus.

Ransomware was also a popular method of defrauding unsuspecting computer users. Symantec reported it had received a number of support calls from customers claiming they were being asked to pay a ransom in exchange for the freedom of their encrypted data.

Countries most affected by the scams were based in the UK, US, France, Australia and Germany, the report revealed.

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