Bot attack volumes growing 41% year over year, human-initiated attacks down 29%

Bot attack volumes grew 41% year over year with human-initiated attacks falling 29%, according to a report from LexisNexis Risk Solutions. The report confirms earlier trend patterns showing the financial services industry and media businesses bear the brunt of increased automated bot network attacks.

bot attack volumes

The report analyzed 28.7 billion transactions over the six-month period, up 28% year over year, attributed to increased transaction volumes from existing customers and an increased customer base. The increased shift to digital payments seen across advanced economies during the pandemic appears to be a permanent change, while accelerated digital transformation in emerging economies and industries continue to drive transaction growth as well as catch the attention of fraudsters.

Geographical shifts in bot attack volume

The first half of 2021 saw geographical shifts in attack volume observed across transactions. Based on bot IP addresses, Mexico joins Brazil on the top ten list of largest originators of bot attacks by volume, further establishing Latin America (LATAM) as a hotspot for both automated and human-initiated attacks.

Attack rates originating from North America and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) have historically been similar and lower than the other regions. Since March 2021, however, North America recorded higher daily attack rates that now exceed those in EMEA, marking a sustained change in cybercriminal behavior in the U.S. and Canada, which may be linked to an earlier transition towards a post-pandemic world.

Key findings

  • Bot attacks increase globally – All regions have recorded growth in bot volume between January-June 2021 in comparison to the same period last year. This was most marked in the Asia Pacific (APAC) and LATAM regions, with EMEA experiencing the smallest growth.
  • Industry innovations altered risk profiles – The online payment market continues to proliferate and diversify. Buy now pay later (BNPL) services and digital wallets are becoming an increasingly popular payment method, with BNPL transactions growing 182% year-over-year. This growth is likely to continue as it caters to the increasing population of consumers who are transacting more online. However, it also creates new avenues of attack for cybercriminals.
  • Financial services institutions deployed new methods to track money mules – Advances in beneficiary intelligence within the Digital Identity Network are making it less complicated for banks and other payment service providers to track payment transfers involved in money mule activity. This includes when the beneficiary tries to hide their tracks by splitting the initial payment and routing it via other entities in the payment network.

“Today’s report not only confirms cybercriminals’ reliance on automated processes, but also highlights that fraudsters are further establishing sophisticated and expansive networks to conduct fraud,” said Stephen Topliss, VP of fraud and identity for LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

“Explosive transaction and user growth rates in industry sectors such as virtual banks and buy now pay later are likely exposing emergent risks for these newer businesses as they grab the attention of fraudsters. The digital businesses that survive and thrive will be those that deploy layered cybercrime prevention solutions as they scale.”

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