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Far from ‘game over’ for cyber criminals

AS money moves online, so do cyber criminals. This was demonstrated in late April 2011 when Sony announced that the credit card information of over 77 million PlayStation users was at risk after its system was hacked. Everything is fair game in the shadowy world of cyberspace. A study by online securities company RSA reveals over 88% of Fortune 500 computers suffer from botnet activity, while 60% of email addresses are infected by malware.

Governments are becoming more alert to the dangers posed to Internet innocents. In 2010, UK reported an annual loss of 17 billion euros, while China says phishing scams cost the country US$3 billion over the same year. Malaysia stated that cybercrime had doubled.

According to FBI sleuths, the most common crimes in 2010 were non-delivery of payment/merchandise (21.1%), identity theft (16.6%), auction fraud (10.1%) and credit card fraud (9.3%). Trojans and viruses were also rampant, with the Zeus Trojan responsible for 90% of all banking fraud and the Nimkey Trojan, implicated in the theft of over 20 million euros in EU emission allowances.

Preventative measures are improving. Interpol announced a new cybercrime-fighting center in Singapore, governments are fostering heightened awareness and safety mechanisms such as complaint hotlines, and 2010 saw the largest number of arrests and clampdowns on perpetrators.

However, criminals manage to stay a step ahead. Mobile phones are particularly at risk, with application downloads predicted to double to 25 million over 2011. Phishing scams from bank imposters with fancy Web shop-fronts will increase. China detected 1.75 million phishing websites last year and the numbers are expected to rise. – Tenzing Y Thondup