The rise of cybercrime

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There is a serious disconnect in how people view the threat of cybercrime ... [it] is much more prevalent than people realize.” –Adam Palmer, lead cyber security advisor, Norton

If I were to ask you to guess how much global economic harm is caused by cybercrime every year – in terms of dollars, now – how big a price tag would you come up with?

Do you think cybercrime causes $50 billion in annual losses, in terms of data stolen and productive time lost dealing with the fallout from various nefarious virtual attacks? Maybe it’s more on the order of $100 billion per year in losses.

Well, according to a new study conducted by Symantec, which produces the Norton antivirus software line, direct losses to cybercrime – in terms of money and/or data stolen, systems crashed, etc. – amounts to $114 billion annually, with an additional $274 billion worth of time lost on the part of corporations and individuals alike dealing with the fallout from cyber criminal activities.

[Below you’ll find a few other frightening cybercrime factoids to ponder as well. Note the timeline shown at the beginning of this clip, as the advent of the “Internet Age” is paralleled by a steady increase in all sorts of electronically-focused criminal activity.]

Thus, Symantec believes total global annual financial losses related to cybercrime hovers near the $388 billion mark – a sum far bigger than what the global “black market” takes in from sales of marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined (a figure calculated by the United Nations to be $288 billion annually).

Now, of course, this is a survey conducted by a company with a pretty big stake in the “anti-cybercrime” market, so some fairly large grains of salt must be included when digesting its results.

Still, as more and more of daily commerce gets increasingly buttressed by all sorts of electronic supports – especially ones designed to speed cargo across borders and comply with a host of other security requirements – trucking companies should give Symantec’s Norton Cybercrime Report 2011 more than a casual perusal.

Indeed, as my boss Jim Mele noted in the cover story he penned for Fleet Owner’s September issue, cargo thieves are now in many cases creating false companies created with all sorts of electronic help so they can more easily steal valuable freight.

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I mean, why break into a freight terminal to steal something, when you can just go online and have a trucker deliver what you want to steal right to your own fake front door?

Turning back to Symantec’s Norton Cybercrime Report – which is based upon 20,000 interviews conducted by polling firm StrategyOne across 24 countries between February and March this year – it revealed that more than two thirds of adults (69%) that spend a significant amount of time online say they’ve been a victim of cybercrime in their lifetime.

By extrapolation across the world’s population, that roughly means every second 14 adults become a victim of cybercrime, resulting in more than one million cybercrime victims every day, according to Symantec’s research.

The latest twist in cybercrime is that it’s increasingly going mobile. Symantec’s study finds that 10% of “online adults” reported experiencing cybercrime on their mobile phone. In fact, Symantec noted in its Internet Security Threat Report, Volume 16 that there were 42% more mobile vulnerabilities in 2010 compared to 2009 – a sign that cybercriminals are starting to focus their efforts on the mobile space.

The number of reported new mobile operating system vulnerabilities increased as well, from 115 in 2009 to 163 in 2010. In addition to threats on mobile devices, increased social networking and a lack of protection are likely to be some of the main culprits behind the growing number of cybercrime victims.

[Below, Steve Vinsik, vp-global security solutions for Unisys Corp., talks about how it’s the cyber crimes you DON’T hear about that are the most worrisome. You’ll also notice that towards the end of this clip the audio track starts running ahead of the video a little bit.]

Symantec’s s study also identifies men between 18 and 31 years old who access the Internet from their mobile phone as the most likely potential victims of cyber criminals. In this group, four in five (80%) say they’ve fallen prey to cybercrime in their lifetime, the firm’s survey found.

Globally, the most common – and most preventable – type of cybercrimes are those caused by computer viruses and “malware” (shorthand for “malicious software”) with 54% of respondents saying they have experienced it in their lifetime, Symantec noted, followed by online scams (11%) and phishing messages (10%).

Earlier this year, Symantec’s own security activities found more than 286 million unique variations of malware compared to the 240 million reported in 2009, representing a 19% increase.

“Cybercrime is much more prevalent than people realize,” noted Adam Palmer, lead cyber security advisor for Symantec’s Norton division, in the report.

“Over the past 12 months, three times as many adults surveyed have suffered from online crime versus offline crime, yet less than a third of respondents think they are more likely to become a victim of cybercrime than physical world crime in the next year,” he pointed out. “And while 89% of respondents agree that more needs to be done to bring cybercriminals to justice, fighting cybercrime is a shared responsibility. It requires us all to be more alert and to invest in our online smarts and safety.”

This “disconnect,” between awareness and action, is further illustrated that while 74% of respondents say they are always aware of cybercrime, many are not taking the necessary precautions, said Palmer.

Symantec found that 41% of adults it surveyed indicated they don't have an up to date security software suite to protect their personal information online.

In addition, less than half review credit card statements regularly for fraud (47%), and 61% don't use complex passwords or change them regularly. Among those who access the Internet via their mobile phone, only 16% install the most up to date mobile security.

Companies from across the trucking spectrum need to sit down and think about these statistics here, especially the long term ramifications for freight security. Since so many of us now use a variety of “smart phones” in our work and personal lives, the opportunity for co-opting such electronic mediums in the trucking space is incredibly high right now.

So whether you believe all of Symantec’s results or not, the firm’s cybercrime report should at least encourage truckers to give more thought to how they secure the electronic avenues that criss-cross their operations every day.

What's Trucks at Work?

Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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