Cyber criminals take advantage of credit crunch

The worsening global economic climate is creating fertile ground for cybercriminals to dupe unsuspecting users into divulging sensitive information about themselves or their organisations, the McAfee Virtual Criminology Report 2008 has found.

At the same time, it concluded that the economic crisis is diverting political attentions from cyber security worldwide, preventing governments from making real headway against the perpetrators of online crime.

Greg Day, McAfee security analyst, told IT PRO that the UK was a prime example of those countries around the world who had taken their eye off the cyber crime ball.

"In August 2007, the House of Lords published a cyber crime report calling for steps to be taken to stop the internet becoming the wild wild west of criminal activity'," he said. "But the government's taken no action since."

Day also pointed out that the UK has yet to ratify the European Council's attempts to commonalise cyber law in the region that were first drawn up in 2001.

"We need guidelines on what the common laws around cyber crime are and how governments and law enforcement agencies can gather and share information on each other," he added.

The research found cyber criminals are cashing in on consumer anxiety to profit from old-fashioned get rich quick' scams, while the proportion of phishing emails has rocketed. Day said criminals are also now targeting job search websites to garner personal information for ID fraud.

And, with cyber crime as an issue dropping down the global agenda in response to growing financial concerns would only exacerbate the fact that law enforcement agencies lack specialist skills required to effectively fight cyber crime.

Day said: "The US President-Elect has just appointed a global security adviser who reports directly to him and the Department of Homeland Security is investing $159 million (107 million) on cyber security. The UK's devoted just 7 million."

He warned that a lack of co-ordinated, global efforts would allow cyber crime problems to expand exponentially unless governments commit to funding the resources needed to combat cyber crime.

The full report is available for download here.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.