Government Technology

The Troubled Economy Fuels Cyber Crime



May 26, 2009 By

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), cyber crime was up in 2008, and if the first few months of 2009 is anything to go by, this trend is not only continuing, it is accelerating.

As the country slides into recession, early indicators for 2009-February to March 2009-shows an additional 50% increase in reported Internet fraud complaints.

"These numbers are shocking, but given that the vast majority of incidents go unreported, the threat of identification theft is actually much more serious than even these figures would lead us to believe," says Justin Yurek, President of ID Watchdog, Inc. Common wisdom says that only one cyber crime in seven-or about fifteen percent-is actually reported.

Internet fraud includes everything from bogus sales on auction sites such as eBay and classified sites like craigslist.com, to smaller scale version of the Ponzi scheme perpetrated by disgraced New York financier Bernard Madoff.

As an example, a scam recently surfaced via e-mails that masquerade as originating from the FBI and other federal agencies seeking the recipient's bank account information in order to "help with illegal wire transfer investigations." Sweet.

The Recession Impact

Many observers put the continued surge in cyber crime down to the recession, and for several reasons.

As reported by the TechArena Forum , McAfee for one, in their annual McAfee Virtual Criminology Report-which examines emerging global cyber security trends, with input from leading academics, criminal lawyers, law enforcement authorities and security experts across the world-identified the following challenges:

The Cyber Credit Crunch - The cyber criminal is now trying to cash in on consumer anxiety to profit from old-fashioned "get rich quick" scams.

Meaning, that there are now people who voluntarily sign up to add malicious code to their websites, lured by the promise of easy money. At the same time, desperate job seekers are being recruited as "money mules" to launder cybercriminal gains under the guise of "international sales representatives" or "shipping managers."

In addition, with the economic downturn driving more people to the web to seek the best deals, opportunities for cybercriminals to attack are on the rise as people are more easily drawn in.

Governments are distracted - As governments grow more and more preoccupied with the economic downturn, their fight against cyber crime slides down their agenda, inviting more and more audacious individuals onto the cyber crime field.

The Cybercop Shortage - It is a known fact that police forces on the cyber crime front line often lack the specialist skills required to effectively fight these criminals.

Furthermore, the lack of dedicated and ongoing training, sufficient remuneration, or even a clear career path, is causing cyber crime specialists to be lured into the more lucrative private sector or even into underground economies.

Criminality Concealed - Eastern Europe, Russia and China have become key safe havens for cybercriminals while Brazil has become one of the fastest growing scapegoat countries for cybercrime. Traffic is often re-routed (and often via Brazil) as a decoy causing considerable misdirection in the origin of attacks.

Information Silo - While law enforcement is bound to physical national boundaries, cybercriminals are free to cooperate across borders.

Law enforcement communication between countries remains inconsistent and limited. Local issues and priorities take precedence over global efforts and international laws are being implemented with regional variations that impede the ability to negotiate jurisdiction and extradition between countries.

This is an environment that plays right into the hands of the cyber criminal, much to the frustration of cyber police.

Microsoft's Take

As reported by


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