RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Cyber-attacks are now rated as one of the top five risks of 2022 by security experts. 

Those attacks are up 600 percent and are expected to increase in the next year. 

For years, everyone’s impression of hackers were lone wolves hiding in the darkness of cyberspace. Today, hackers are going corporate– just ask those who track them.  

“Because they are so successful, they get more money and with more money become even more successful,” said Peter Nicoletti, the Chief Information Security Officer at Check Point, a cybersecurity firm.

It’s estimated billions of dollars land in the hands of cyber criminals, who then are using it just like big corporations by putting it back into the business. 

“With the money we’re paying them, it’s enabling them to become more sophisticated and get better employees,” said  Nicoletti.  “They are paying for zero days, they have trouble ticket systems and affiliate marketing programs.” 

Identity theft is nothing new, but it’s become so common that there are now criminals that specialize in getting information. 

“There may be a fishing group that got 500 people today and they sell that information to other people who leverage it for other scams,” said  Nicoletti. 

There are also scammers who specialize in creating profiles of victims that they can sell. 

“What they are looking for are called ‘FULLZ‘, that’s hacker-speak for a complete information package,” said  Nicoletti. “That means your HIPPA records, your financial records, your social security, your address, everything.” 

Just like big tech companies who collect data to compile information on us to sell to advertisers, criminal scammers are doing the same thing and compiling profiles on us. 

“They don’t have the surfing behaviors that Google and Facebook do, but they have everything else,” said Nicoletti. 

You can be your own first line of defense in protecting yourself from hackers. It’s estimated 90 percent of cyber-attacks start with someone clicking a phishing email. 

The government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency offers more tips on cyber hygiene which you can find here.