Cybercrime in 2010 – a tale of two perspectives

By Joaquim P. Menezes

Will the battle against cybercrime get more effective, or less in 2010? 

How successful will law enforcement groups be this year in tracking and combating hackers, spammers, ID thieves and other types of cybercriminals? 

Two prominent security firms have commented on this issue and their perspectives seem very different.

In December I attended the Internet BlackMarket event, hosted in Toronto by Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec.

Symantec executives painted a bleak picture of the cyber security situation, and the rapid growth of cybercrime.

Today, a crime on the Web happens every quarter of a second, Janice Chaffin, group president, Symantec’s consumer business unit told attendees.

A booth at the event visually depicted how items are traded in bulk on the cyber Blackmarket – including credit and debit cards numbers, complete IDs, government IDs and more.

Symantec security experts also provided hands-on demos of techniques used by hackers and bot herders to hack PCs and create botnets — networks of compromised computers.

Would the situation get any better?

She suggested that it wouldn’t. Quite the opposite.

As these online threats grow at an incredible rate, Chaffin said chances of one becoming a victim have also skyrocketed. She cited research showing “one in five persons” would fall prey to cybercriminal activity, especially ID theft.

And while cybercriminals are honing the effectiveness of their techniques, computer users remain very vulnerable, the Symantec exec pointed out. A quarter of global computer users have no form of protection on their machines. And our surveys also show about half of the people who use computers say they visit unsafe sites.”

But a more recent report by another security software vendor, Santa Clara, Calif.-based McAfee Inc. presents a slightly more sanguine picture.   

While not minimizing the cyber threats confronting users this year, McAfee’s recently unveiled 2010 Threat Predictions report also expresses confidence that “2010 will be a successful year for the cyber security community.” 

“McAfee Labs has seen significant progress in the universal effort to identify, track, and combat cybercrime,” the report says. “McAfee believes that in 2010 we’ll see many more successes in the pursuit of cybercriminals. 

But the report also warns about the rise in certain types of threats such as those targeting social networking sites, and the rise of banking Trojans.

So should computer users be optimistic or alarmed? Cautious or confident. 

Perhaps a blend of both would be the most appropriate response.

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