September 18, 2010

Cybercrime Becoming World’s Biggest Growing Threat

On Friday, 300 of the world's top law enforcement officials concluded the first ever international police anti-cybercrime conference in Hong Kong.

The security general of the international police agency Interpol, Robert K. Noble, told the law enforcement officials from 56 countries that terrorists could inflict a significant blow with a cyberattack on a nation's infrastructure.

"Just imagine the dramatic consequences of an attack, let's say, on a country's electricity grid or banking system," he said.

"We have been lucky so far that terrorists did not -- at least successfully or at least of which we are aware -- launch cyberattacks."

"One may wonder if this is a matter of style. Terrorists may prefer the mass media coverage of destroyed commuter trains, buildings brought down, to the anonymous collapse of the banking system. But until when?"

Internet security firm Symantec unveiled a new report during the conference on Thursday that also highlighted the growing threat.

The study found that almost two thirds of all adult web users globally have fallen victim to some sort of cybercrime, from spam email scams to stolen credit card information.

China has becoming the biggest victim with 83 percent of its web users being tricked.

The study also found that 80 percent of people believed the perpetrators would never be brought to justice.  Fewer than half did not even bother to report the crime to police.

Stacey Wu, a Symantec senior director, told AFP that just one of the firm's offices alone detected 100,000 cybercrime threats each day.

"It is no longer just high school kids in their bedrooms sending out malicious emails," she said. "It's organized criminals.

"They carry out silent, hit-and-run attacks that steal relatively small amounts of 20 dollars or so from 20 or 30 people. Then they move on."

According to rival computer security firm McAfee, cybercrime is estimated to be worth $105 billion. 

Professor Joseph Kee-Yin Ng, treasurer of the Internet Society Hong Kong, told AFP that the biggest problem is complacency.

"It is hugely important for people and companies to protect themselves," he told AFP. "The criminal is as real as any thief or mugger, you just can't see them."


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