Increase Cybersecurity and Protect Your Assets

More Data, More Money, More Cybercrime 

For several years, we have witnessed the data revolution. The internet, data, and technology are inextricably linked. In an era of unprecedented data proliferation, the increase in daily internet usage results in greater volumes of data being used, produced, and stored. This volume of information generated each day continues to grow and is showing no signs of slowing down.

The exponential increase in data also introduces more threats. The phrase “data is the new oil” reflects the immense value of data as a contemporary asset. Just as there have been global conflicts over precious resources, data is now a critical battleground, albeit in the digital domain rather than on traditional battlefields.

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As the digital economy expands, cybercrime is escalating in parallel. The surge in online and mobile interactions creates billions of potential vulnerabilities. These often lead to data breaches, posing substantial risks to both individuals and businesses. It is crucial for enterprises and individuals to proactively protect their sensitive information from the increasing threat of exposure and to develop robust strategies to mitigate the impacts of a breaches.

When businesses fall victim to cyberattacks, they face substantial costs stemming from operational disruptions and adjustments to business practices. Companies must reassess their data collection and storage practices to safeguard sensitive information more effectively. Companies that experience breaches compromising their customers’ data frequently shell out millions to settle claims. These claims are not driven only by civil lawsuits – regulators have long realized the importance of enterprises protecting customer and user data.

For example, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) was the first data privacy law passed (April 2016) and is intense. GDPR imposes obligations to all organizations, regardless of where they are domiciled, if they have consumers in the EU. Under GDPR, companies must:

  • only process personal data unless one of 6 conditions are met
  • ensure data is secure for consumers
  • disclose data breaches to consumers within 72 hours
  • demonstrate their personal data practices are compliant with regulations
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Many countries, states, and provinces have used GDPR as the modern blueprint for revisions to their data policies.

California was first in the United States to introduce significant data privacy laws with the introduction of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Whereas GDPR focuses on making privacy a legal framework, CCPA focuses on personal data transparency. Under CCPA, consumers have the right to:

  • know what personal data is collected
  • have companies delete any personal data collected
  • opt out of third-party selling of personal data
  • non-discrimination (businesses cannot deny goods or services, charge a different price, or provide an extra level or quality of goods and services) for exercising their CCPA rights.

However, the impact of cybercrime extends beyond financial ramifications. The most significant losses often arise from reputational harm. Customers are increasingly concerned about how businesses manage security issues and are inclined to support businesses that are transparent and vocal about the security measures they have implemented.

Growing Problems

Nobody is safe from cybercrime. Cyberattacks target entities of all sizes and sectors, including individuals, corporations, and governments. We frequently access financial information online, shop online, share personal details on social media, and handle sensitive business and government documents remotely. With our increasing reliance on digital platforms, we become more vulnerable to various cybersecurity risks. Malicious hackers exploit security weaknesses to capitalize on individuals’ personal data and the expanding digital footprints of organizations.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that the American public totalled ~900,000 complaints with potential losses of US$12.5 billion from cybercrime in 2023. This uptick represents a 22% increase in losses compared to 2022 (Exhibit 1).

Exhibit 1: Complaints and Losses Over the Last Five Years from Cybercrime
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Given the escalating threats of financial fraud, unauthorized access, and identity theft, the importance of robust cybersecurity measures has never been more critical. Cybercriminals cast a wide net when searching for targets. Most people are familiar with scam attempts via SMS, social media, email, and phone calls, however entire business and service sectors face cybercrime on a significantly larger scale.

Data Breaches

Due to the interconnected nature of digital systems and the vast amount of personal information stored online, cybercrime frequently serves as a gateway to identity theft. Hackers employ tactics such as phishing emails, malware, and data breaches to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data. Between 2021-2023, data breaches surged by 72%, with 94% of organizations reporting email security incidents.

An IBM report showed that in 2023, the global average cost of a data breach was US$4.45 million, a 15% rise over the preceding three years. Consequently, 51% of organizations intend to boost security investments in response to breaches, focusing on areas such as incident response planning and testing, employee training, and the deployment of threat detection and response tools. Notably, organizations extensively leveraging security artificial intelligence and automation achieve an average savings of US$1.76 million compared to their counterparts that do not employ such technologies.

In a specific case, the personal data of 73 million current and former AT&T customers was leaked online in March 2024. According to the US telecom giant, information such as addresses, social security numbers, and passcodes were published on the dark web, although AT&T stated that financial information was not part of the breach. A class action lawsuit was filed March 30 in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas against AT&T stating that the company recklessly maintained customers personally identifiable information and failed to properly safeguard its system. The lawsuit has not been settled yet. For comparison, in 2022 T-Mobile agreed to pay US$350 million to settle a class-action lawsuit after personal data of more than 50 million customers was leaked and agreed to spend an additional $US$150 million to upgrade data security.

Streaming service ROKU identified nearly 600,000 compromised accounts in two distinct cyberattacks in April 2024. Approximately 400 hacked accounts were utilized by hackers to subscribe to unauthorized services. The company has pledged to refund or reverse charges for accounts affected by unauthorized purchases resulting from the attack.

In May 2024, Ticketmaster experienced a significant hack affecting over half a billion users. The breach allegedly exposed emails, phone numbers, addresses, and even financial details. A notorious hacker group is reportedly selling the 1.3 terabyte-sized trove of data for a one-time price of US$500,000 on a popular hacking forum.

Also in May 2024, malware stole credentials from 361 million Telegram accounts. This represented about 122GB of credentials that included email addresses and passwords.


Ransomware also represents a prevalent form of cyber-extortion, using malicious software to seize control of a user’s computer system and withhold access until a ransom is paid.According to Chainalysis, in 2023 cybercriminals extorted US$1.1 billion in ransom payments, up from US$567 million in 2022.

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The Chainalysis report does not account for additional losses, often totaling millions of dollars, incurred by victims as they strive to recover from ransomware attacks. MGM Resorts, for example, estimated its recovery costs from a significant ransomware incident in October 2023 was US$100 million.

The ransomware attack that compelled major U.S. fuel operator Colonial Pipeline to halt operations in May 2021 elevated ransomware to a top national security concern for the Biden Administration. In response, the U.S. Treasury has sought to curb ransom payments through sanctions. However, cybercriminals are adapting to these measures, and the issue remains pervasive, particularly affecting U.S. schools and local governments lacking the resources to adequately defend themselves.

In December 2022, the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto announced a ‘code grey’, which meant that it had experienced one or more system failures. This turned out to be another ransomware attack. This attack was unique because the provider of the ransomware-as-a-service infrastructure, the LockBit Group, publicly apologized for the incident. The group blamed one of its “partners,” a euphemism for a customer using its ransomware-as-a-service offering, for the attack. LockBit provided unlock codes to decrypt the scrambled data.

Pay Now, Save Later

Investing in cybersecurity is more effective when done sooner rather than later. Companies looking to safeguard themselves from online threats often face significant financial investments. These expenditures may include:

  1. Cybersecurity technology and expertise acquisition;
  2. Expenses associated with notifying affected parties in the event of a breach;
  3. Payment of insurance premiums for cybersecurity coverage;
  4. Engagement of public relations support to manage reputational fallout;
  5. Hiring of legal and other experts to ensure compliance with cybersecurity regulations, and;
  6. Potential additional costs for attorney fees and damages resulting from civil cases against the company in the aftermath of an attack.

Equifax, one of the leading credit bureaus, learned this lesson the hard way following a 2017 data breach that compromised the personal data of 147 million customers. As a consequence of ensuing litigation, the company agreed to pay up to US$425 million to help consumers recover.

In July 2022, T-Mobile disclosed the terms of a settlement for a consolidated class action lawsuit resulting from a data breach in early 2021, impacting approximately 77 million individuals. The breach involved “unauthorized access” to T-Mobile’s systems with a portion of customer data listed for sale on a known cybercriminal forum. According to an SEC filing, T-Mobile agreed to pay a total of $350 million to cover claims submitted by class members, the legal fees of plaintiffs’ counsel, and the administrative costs of the settlement. Additionally, the company committed to an aggregate incremental expenditure of $150 million for data security and related technology in 2022 and 2023.

Long-term costs from breaches, particularly in fines and settlements, can be significant. In 2014, Home Depot experienced a significant data breach. Attackers gained access to the network using stolen credentials, compromising the point-of-sale system, and pilfering over 50 million credit card numbers and 53 million email addresses between April and September 2014. The breach cost Home Depot at least US$134.5 million in payouts to credit card companies and banks. Then in 2016, the company settled for US$19.5 million to compensate affected customers and cover credit monitoring expenses. Additionally, in 2017, Home Depot agreed to a US$25 million settlement with financial institutions affected by the breach. Furthermore, in November 2020, Home Depot settled for US$17.5 million with 46 U.S. states and Washington D.C. The settlement requires Home Depot to appoint a highly qualified Chief Information Security Officer, provide security training for key personnel, and implement robust security controls and policies.

Cybersecurity is a Fiduciary Duty

While challenging to precisely measure, companies affected by major cyberattacks may also experience considerable damage to their brand equity. Both customers and even suppliers may feel less safe entrusting their sensitive data to a company that has experienced IT infrastructure breaches in the past.

In addition to diminished institutional trust, research indicates that publicly traded companies are prone to experiencing a short-term decrease in market value. The IBM Security Cost of a Data Breach Report revealed that nearly all organizations examined witnessed a downturn in quarterly earnings and stock prices following a data breach.

A study by Morningstar Sustainalytics looked at how the stock prices of 69 major companies reacted to cyberattacks. They compared the price changes of these companies over 120 days after the attack to the overall market trend (S&P 500). The study found that the stock prices of the companies dropped by an average of 2.3% within four days of the incident. This decline continued, reaching a low point of 4.6% around two months later. Even a year after the cyberattacks, the stocks in the incident portfolio still underperformed the market, with an average return of -0.65%. This is a significant drop compared to the 8.47% average return these same stocks had in the year before the attacks. This suggests that major cyberattacks can have a lasting negative impact on a company’s stock price.

These financial setbacks are compounded by reported costs exceeding US$1 billion, encompassing regulatory fines, legal expenses, and settlements with consumers, businesses, and states.

Intangible assets represent approximately 90% of the value of S&P 500 companies. A company’s product designs, technologies, and market strategies constitute are valuable assets, however, much of this intellectual property (IP) is stored in the cloud, making it susceptible to cyberattacks. The total cost from theft of American IP was estimated to be US$1.12 billion in 2023, a 36% increase from US$822.3 million in 2022.


We are in the midst of a data revolution. As the digital economy grows, cybercrime is simultaneously increasing. Businesses hit by cyberattacks incur significant costs with the impact of extending beyond financial losses. Cybersecurity is meant to protect devices, networks, and data from unauthorized access and criminal use, but no one is immune to cybercrime. Entities of all sizes and sectors, including individuals, corporations, and governments are susceptible, which is why they must invest to protect their sensitive information and their brand.

Coming Up

In our next report we will discuss the potential market opportunity for Cybersecurity and highlight tailwinds in the sector.

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Plurilock Security Inc. [TSXV:PLUR, OTC:PLCKF] has contracted Sophic Capital for capital markets advisory and investor relations services.



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