CHICAGO - Illinois continues to be one of the hardest hit states for malicious cyber activity, ranking seventh last year for most victim losses at $184.9 million. According to the FBI, malicious cyber activity across the U.S. in 2021 totaled to $7 billion in reported losses to cybercriminals.
On Thursday, FOX 32 sat down with FBI Chicago officials to discuss the growing threat of cybercrime.
With 17,999 victims reported in Illinois, the state ranked fifth in the nation last year for most cybercrime victims.
Experts say as digital platforms continue to evolve and the number of devices connected to the internet around the globe grows, instances of cyber-attacks are becoming even more prevalent.
"There's some kind of cyber apparatus being used in almost every crime today — whether it's violent crime, narcotics, complex financial crimes, domestic terrorism, international terrorism," said FBI Chicago Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. "Generally there is some computer being used or some type of digital platform being used. So it's critical for us to educate the public."
Fighting terrorism is still the FBI's top priority, but in recent years officials say that cybercrime has become just as dangerous.
The FBI not only investigates cyber-security threats to the U.S. government and private businesses, but also to the general public.
Last year, the FBI received 850,000 cybercrime complaints nationwide, a 7 percent increase from the year before.
"A lot more people online adds to more vulnerabilities," said FBI Chicago Senior Supervisory Intelligence Analyst Brian Wolfe.
The number of people and devices online grew exponentially during the pandemic.
"That includes your ring doorbell, your car, your phones," said Wolfe.
Experts say a common denominator among cyber-attacks is social engineering – or phishing.
"Like you click on a link, you get a text message, you believe it’s real and you respond to it, you get an email that’s spoofed and looks like it’s coming from your boss telling you to do something and you go do it," said FBI Chicago Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jay Patel.
One thing you can do to help is to report spam text messages and emails to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3.
"What that will do for us is when we collectively look at all this information coming in, we have analysts that are working 24/7 to go through all this data, they can look at patterns and identify those patterns," said Patel.
"When you talk about connecting the dots, every dot is critical," said Buie Jr.
FBI officials say one easy way to protect yourself from becoming a victim of online cyber schemes and attacks is to update your computer and phone software regularly – and to avoid snoozing prompts to update your devices.
This will help prevent attackers from accessing loopholes they may find in outdated hardware.
"We all have to partner together to make sure the U.S. is in the best position possible to protect our ecosystem in the cyber arena," said Buie Jr.
Some cybercrime investigations take years. The FBI Chicago recently took part in an operation with the IRS seizing $3.6 billion – the largest monetary seizure in the DOJ’s history – linked to a 2016 hack of cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex.