Butch Cassidy of the Modern Age: How the Digital World is Enabling Modern Day Bank Robbers

As more data goes digital, the volume and scale of cybercrime continues to increase. Companies and consumers alike should be concerned about modern day “bank robbers.”

In 1889, Butch Cassidy, one of the most notorious bank robbers in history, stole $20,000 ($450K today) from a bank in Colorado [1]. In January of 2018, unknown hackers stole at least $400M of cryptocurrency from Coincheck[2]. The digital world we now live in has enabled criminals to steal massive amounts of money and information, a dark and ominous winner in the world of digital transformation.

Traditional bank robberies still occur in today’s world, but are risky endeavors with relatively low returns. Though there are some examples of massive successful robberies, on average, bank robbers make $31,600 per successful heist. 33% of heists result in no return, 20% result in capture, and some result in the death of the perpetrator.

Robbery in the digital world is a different story. As more businesses digitize their business and more customers depend on the internet for financial transactions, the scale and volume of cyber theft continues to balloon.  Cyber criminals don’t only steal money; they steal IP, personal information, and crucial business data. Juniper Research estimates that the global cost of cybercrime will exceed $2 trillion by 2019, with the average cost of a single data breach exceeding $150 million [4].  Ginni Rometty, the President and CEO of IBM believes that “cybercrime if the greatest threat to every company in the world” [5].

We have all read the news about major recent attacks on global companies: the Yahoo breach which exposed user data from 3 billion accounts [6], the Equifax hack that exposed the personal data of 143 million people [7], the Mt. Gox hack that resulted in the theft of $460 million worth of Bitcoin [8]. These attacks are extremely concerning and very expensive for companies to recover from.

It’s not just large companies that are under attack. In a poll of SMBs run by Keeper Security and the Ponemon Institute, 50% reported at least one cyber-attack and data breach in the last 12 months. These incidents are expensive for SMBs, who spent an average of $879,582 for damage or theft of IT assets and an additional $955,429 for disruption of normal services [9].  Any company can be a target of cyber-crime and the volume of attacks is always increasing. In 2015, there was an estimated 1.5 million cyber-attacks with businesses being attacked over 16,000 times per year on average [10].  All attacks are not successful, but those that are can be devastating.

In a world where more and more information is being stored digitally, it is crucial for companies and customers to protect themselves from cyber-crime. For consumers, it is crucial to know and follow online safety protocol. Password protection is key.  A study from Verizon found that 63% of data breaches were completed using stolen or weak passwords [12]. Use strong passwords and different passwords between sites. A password management software such as 1Password or LastPass [11] can help you set-up and keep track of highly secure passwords. Consider using two-factor authentication wherever possible to further secure your accounts. Another important thing to avoid is clicking on links in suspicious emails, which could potentially be phishing attacks. Phishing emails are the cause of a huge percentage of successful cyber-attacks, in large part because consumers don’t understand the danger of clicking suspicious links.

Companies should be sure they are considering the high risk of cybercrime when deciding how and where to store important data. Many security firms and consultants are available should your work require additional security considerations.  Given the high risk, companies should recognize they will have to dedicate resources to security considerations. Gartner estimates that worldwide spending on security products and services will reach $93 billion in 2018 [13]. Another key focus of businesses should be on employee monitoring and education. Strong passwords should be required, security policies strictly enforced, and company-wide education about the risk of phishing emails should be a priority.

Cybercrime isn’t going anywhere. It will continue to make headlines and cause serious headaches for business leaders and consumers alike. The modern day “bank robbers” have been enabled by the digital world to commit large-scale crimes that affect millions of people, a dark side to the innovation that has transformed business and society.




[1] https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0212/4-of-the-largest-bank-heists-in-history.aspx

[2] https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/27/16940598/coincheck-hack-500-million-nem-tokens-cryptocurrency

[3] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/stats-show-crime-doesnt-pay-most-robbers/

[4] https://www.juniperresearch.com/press/press-releases/cybercrime-cost-businesses-over-2trillion

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevemorgan/2015/11/24/ibms-ceo-on-hackers-cyber-crime-is-the-greatest-threat-to-every-company-in-the-world/#26f2e36e73f0

[6] https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/10/03/555016024/every-yahoo-account-that-existed-in-mid-2013-was-likely-hacked

[7] https://www.wired.com/story/equifax-breach-no-excuse/

[8] https://www.wired.com/2014/03/bitcoin-exchange/

[9] 2016 State of Cybersecurity in Small & Medium-Sized Businesses (SMB) report, sponsored by Keeper Security, independently conducted by Ponemon Institute

[10] http://www.cbs.com/shows/csi-cyber/news/1003888/these-cybercrime-statistics-will-make-you-think-twice-about-your-password-where-s-the-csi-cyber-team-when-you-need-them-/

[11] https://lifehacker.com/5529133/five-best-password-managers

[12] http://www.verizonenterprise.com/resources/reports/rp_dbir-2016-executive-summary_xg_en.pdf

[13] https://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3784965



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Student comments on Butch Cassidy of the Modern Age: How the Digital World is Enabling Modern Day Bank Robbers

  1. Great post! Indeed, the threat of cybercrime is constant and surely keeps many executives up at night. As a result, cybersecurity may be one of the most lucrative industries for decades to come.

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