The modern-day highway robbers are cybercriminals who use digital technology to steal sensitive information or money from individuals and organizations.

The parallels between 17th and 18th century highway robbery and modern-day cybercrime in the digital age are striking. The economic progress, opportunity, and new infrastructure following the civil war that led to highway robbery in the past are echoed in the need for speed of communication, infrastructure to support it, and mass adoption of technology embedded into community and industry today.

Just as turnpike trusts were set up to improve roads surfaces and infrastructure to support trade in the past, modern-day digital highways—or networks as we now call them—also have unprotected gaps (‘vectors’) between destinations— often in the supply chain, giving rise to large attack surfaces that are being targeted and exploited by the modern highway robber.

The rise of bad actors who are state-facilitated and sponsored through geopolitical instability and war is also similar to the impact of the wars of the 17th and 18th century on local security. Safe havens now exist for learning and proliferation of the next generation of cybercriminals. Cyber attack vectors and numbers continue to rise, but more worryingly, their impact on the wider business economy is increasing. The cost of cybercrime is estimated to be $8 trillion in 2023—greater than the combined GDP of the UK and Germany—and on a $10.5 trillion trajectory by 2025.

ENISA, the EU Agency for Cyber Security, identifies four types of modern-day highwaymen: state-sponsored actors, cybercrime actors, hacker-for-hire actors, and hacktivists.  These rogues perpetrate many types of attack:

  • Ransomware / Malware – involving taking control of a target’s assets and demanding payment for their return, while malware is any software or firmware that has a negative impact on a system’s confidentiality, integrity, or availability.
  • Social engineering – exploiting human error or behaviour to gain access to information or services (including email phishing and other attempts to steal login credentials or gain access to an organisation’s systems and data.
  • Supply chain attacks – targeting the relationship between organizations and their suppliers, in which both the supplier and the customer are targets, that can have a ripple effect across multiple organisations.
  • Threats against data – to gain unauthorized access to data sources or manipulate data to interfere with system behaviour.
  • Denial of service (DDoS )attacks – targeting system and data availability.
  • Disinformation/misinformation campaigns – aiming to manipulate people’s perception of events or information, spurred by social media algorithms, and of course amplified in targeting people’s perception of the status and responsibilities in the Russia – Ukraine war.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) device vulnerability exploits: to gain access to larger networks.

To help businesses navigate the digital highway safely, Arx has developed an intuitive platform supporting businesses, large or small, to become cyber secure. The Arx Platform provides companies and their suppliers with the key tools to identify, protect, detect, and recover from cyber attacks. We pride ourselves on making cyber defence accessible to every business by facilitating education and resilience whilst minimising cyber spend.

Improved technology: just as improved roads and infrastructure made travel safer in the past, the development of better cybersecurity software and tools, including AI, increase cyber attack detection and prevention.

Greater awareness: Just as in the past the public was made aware of the dangers of highway robbery through better communication systems, including the telegraph, the Arx platform provides both basic training and notifications to Arx Alliance members, educating people about how to protect themselves from cyber threats and to report suspicious activity to law enforcement.

Up-to-date control measures: Like regulation of the highways in the 1800s to curb highway robbery, stronger regulations and standards are being introduced to combat cybercrime, but the challenge is knowing what to prioritise. Companies using Arx Platform are guided to risk control measures tailored to their specific businesses to protect their data and systems.

Sure, there are multiple parallels between highway robbery in the past and cybercrime today, but what is different now is that all companies—including those that are small and vulnerable—can better understand the threats we face and take practical steps to mitigate against being victims.

Find out how at