McAfee, Inc. (NYSE: MFE), today announced the results and availability of the McAfee(R) Virtual Criminology Report (pdf), which examines how a new class of criminals are using the Internet in new, systematic and professional ways to commit illegal acts. According to the findings, information theft is the most damaging category of Internet crime, while viruses have been the most costly for businesses.
The report, commissioned by McAfee, discusses how organized crime and cybercrime are developing, and looks at the future threat this activity could pose to home computers, government computer networks, and to computer systems in the business sector. The report reveals a hierarchy of cybercriminals, discussing the recent evolution of the amateur cyber delinquent to the professional cyber gang.
“As companies and consumers continue to move towards a networked and information economy, more opportunity exists for cybercriminals to take advantage of vulnerabilities on networks and computers,” said Chris Christiansen, program vice president, IDC. “Understanding who these criminals are and how they attack provide great insight into implementing and practicing good security hygiene.”
Prior to 2000, cybercriminals acting alone committed the majority of cybercrimes, usually in an attempt to attain notoriety within the cyber world. However, in recent years, a shift has occurred as criminals and not just amateurs are committing cybercrimes. This is due in large part to the potentially huge financial gains that can be made from the Internet with relatively little risk. The report goes on to examine the different tactics and tools used by these cybercriminals, and future areas of attack.
Some of the report’s most compelling highlights include:
- The FBI estimates that cybercrime cost about $400 billion in 2004.
- In an investigation, codenamed “Operation Firewall,” U.S. and Canadian authorities announced the arrest of 28 people from six countries involved in a global organized cybercrime ring. They operated Websites to buy and sell credit card information and false identities. They bought and sold almost 1.7 million stolen credit card numbers. Of these stolen credit cards, financial institutions have estimated their losses to be $4.3 million.
- The use of pseudonyms or online identities provides an anonymity that is attractive to criminals. Sources estimate that perhaps only 5% of cybercriminals are ever caught or convicted.