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“Staggering” rise in cybercrime threat, warns McAfee

Tash Shifrin

The threat to business from cybercrime is increasing at a “staggering rate” as organised criminals groom a new generation of hackers, security experts have warned.

Security firm McAfee’s second annual report on organised crime and the internet warned that more than 200,000 online threats had been detected by July.

“It took 18 years to reach the first 100,000 (2004) and only 22 months to double that figure. McAfee’s researchers expect it to double yet again in a similar timeframe,” the report said.

McAfee security analyst Greg Day added, “Cybercrime is no longer in its infancy, it is big business. Criminal entrepreneurs can make fast money with minimal risk and their ranks are growing with that realisation.

“With technology continually evolving, criminal opportunity is also growing – opportunity that is global and unrestricted by geography, language or appearance.”

The report warns that criminal gangs are targeting top university students and seeking to attract teenagers as young as 14, luring them with the promise of celebrity status in the hacking community and the opportunity making money without the risks associated with traditional crime.

It highlights a 25% increase in phishing attacks over the past year, with a rise in “spear phishing” - tricking people into giving away user names and passwords with increasingly tailored lures designed to look as if they have come from employers or work colleagues.

Botnets – robot networks of illegally linked computers that can be controlled remotely – are now the preferred method for internet thieves to effectively execute attacks, with at least 12 million compromised computers being used for phishing, identity theft and illegal spamming worldwide.

Cybercriminals are also targeting social networking websites, loading fake pages with adware, spyware and trojans, and collecting personal information divulged online for fraudulent purposes.

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