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Issue of January 2007

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Changing face of cybercrime

McAfee Inc has announced their findings from new research. The results reveals how organised crime is grooming a new generation of high-flying cyber criminals using tactics which echo those employed by the KGB (Committee for State Security, Russia) to recruit operatives at the height of the cold war.

The second annual McAfee report into organised crime and the Internet, with input from Europe’s leading hi-tech crime units and the FBI, suggests on trends that criminal gangs are targeting top students from leading academic institutions to provide them with the skills they need to commit hi-tech crime on a mass scale.

Other key findings from the McAfee Virtual Criminology Report 2006 include

The Cult of Cybercrime: Cybercrime has established a cult following with online offenders rising almost to celebrity status within hacking communities. Specialist forums to highlight potential security issues have also served to showcase ‘black hat’ tricks and criminal opportunity.

The Malware Milkround: Organised crime is now employing KGB-style tactics to ensnare the next generation of hackers and malware authors. Cyber-criminals are actively approaching students and graduates of IT technology courses to recruit a fresh wealth of cyber skill to their ranks

Inside Jobs: Taking advantage of inadequate enterprise security procedures and policies, current and former employees, contractors and suppliers are instigating the vast majority of hacking attacks. Cybercrooks are sponsoring graduates with a view to gaining the lucrative insiders view of enterprises.

The McAfee Virtual Criminology Report 2006 further highlights on how the virtual anonymity and stealth of attack that the online environment affords means detection is a growing challenge for law enforcement agencies

McAfee has highlighted the following as the main threats, tools and opportunities that organised crime is exploiting

Mind Games: Cybercriminals are increasingly resorting to psychological warfare tactics in order to succeed. Phishing emails have increased by approximately twenty five percent over the last year but are harder to detect as they increasingly trick unsuspecting people with ordinary scenarios instead of improbable ones such as sudden cash windfalls.

Social Scams: Cybercriminals are being drawn to the huge crowds of the social networking and community sites. Loading fake profiles and pages with adware, spyware and trojans, money making malware authors are cashing in on their popularity. They are also collating personal information divulged online to formulate virtual twin identities for fraudulent purposes.

Data Seepage: Data is continually exposed without need for sophisticated attack and cybercriminals are cashing in. Password proliferation for consumer and work devices means often simple guesswork unlocks the door; unsecured removable media devices such as USB sticks provide an easy route for information-transfer and increasing convergence of technologies means inadequate security and integrated risk.

Botnets: As predicted in last years report, botnets, robot networks of illegally linked computers that can be controlled remotely are now the preferred method for Internet thieves to effectively execute attacks. A Open-source criminal collaboration is also generating more robust and reliable botnets with guaranteed ROI.

The Future: Smartphone and multifunctional mobiles are making portable computers essential lifestyle accessories and predictions are that cybercriminals will increasingly mine them for valuable information in the coming months. The increasing use of bluetooth and VoIP will also lead to a new generation of mobile hacking.

The survey further enforces us to believe on the fact that 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.

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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