Is Cyber Crime Becoming An Epidemic?

An excellent piece last night by the ABC’s Four Corners programme on cyber crime and how it is starting to run riot on the Internet.

We’ve discussed malware, spyware and botnets a lot lately, and the programme backed up our views on how dangerous these criminals, and there activities are, to the average Australian.

Reporter Andrew Fowler explained it best, when he said a botnet makes your computer a slave to somebody else’s whim. What surprised me though, was the statistic that one in six computers in Australia is thought to have been infected by a botnet. That is an horrendous figure. What is of real concern though, a spokesman from the Federal Police’s cybercrime unit says, is that this is only the tip of the iceberg – and he’s probably right.

To back up his point is a story out of the US today that has three people – a US national and two Russian nationals – being arrested after stealing 130 million credit and debit card details. When you consider there are 300 million Americans, that almost one in two people who could have been affected by this action.

The problem with this type of crime is not only the theft and stealing of money, it’s also the knock on affect. The programme last night gave the example of Alice Springs-based Multibet that was sent to the wall by criminals trying to extort money from them. Multibet founder Terry Lillis told them to get lost, which resulted in a huge cyber attack from which the company never recovered. So it also costs jobs. Then there are the sales lost by retailers who are hit by these crimes, as well as the banks having to reverse charges – the list goes on the mayhem this can cause.

Some believe white collar crime is not as bad on the scale of violent crime. I concur to the degree the crimes involving violence leave a lot more tangible scars. But having your identity stolen, and money taken without your knowledge – until it’s too late – is not to be taken lightly.

One expert on the programme went as far as to say he could imagine a time when the Internet would be closed down due to too much criminal activity taking over the day-to-day that it would become impossible for normal activity to take place. I think this might be taking it a bit too far, but the AFP and other enforcement agencies around the world certainly have their work cut out for them. This is not an easy task, and I just hope that the funding they receive keeps abreast of the amount of crime these activities cause.