Earlier in December, McAfee released their 4th annual Virtual Criminology Report, which outlines trends in global cybercrime. The report indicated that cybercriminals quickly shifted tactics to take advantage of emotional "hot ticket" items such as the economic recession. Botnets alone are capable of sending 100 billion spam messages per day, an infrastructure that is making it easier and more lucrative for cyber criminals to stay hidden.
Banking scams emerged soon after banks started to struggle during the start of the recession. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the fear and uncertainty of this by asking users to "update account information" before their bank merged, for example. Targeted scams emerge as early as a day after news breaks, as they did also during the presidential race this year. In addition to a shift in tactics, the report indicates that criminals are becoming more aggressive:
"With almost all of today’s malware being financially motivated, even cybercriminals are looking for more business in tough economic times and are really stepping up their game."
Analysts say these trends point out that cybercriminals are getting faster and smarter than ever before. Also tapping into fear that's the result of the economic downturn, there has been an increase in scammers luring customers into "internet sales" jobs that are end up assisting cyber criminals in things such as money laundering. Some examples of various recent scams of these sorts can be found on the Avert Labs blog.
As with all security problems, with both consumers and the corporate environment, the solution to these issues comes by combining education with technology:
"Technology alone cannot solve the problem. Education alone cannot solve the problem. Both combined, however, can enable us all to use the Internet the way we want."
In addition to these measures, the report strongly encourages governments to step up in fighting cybercrime. Law enforcement at every level has been ad-hoc and incapable of coping with cybercrime, with issues in cross-border law enforcement making the issues worse.
Download the McAfee Virtual Criminology Report here. And, along similar lines, the Anti-Phishing Working Group has published their quarterly report, indicating that the use of malware on websites to steal passwords and other sensitive information is at an all-time high.
The FBI is also reminding people to be aware of holiday-themed scams criminals are using to steal personal information and/or money. Be aware of greeting e-card scams, spoofing and phishing scams. They remind you not to respond to unsolicited email, not to click on links or attached files, to keep private information to yourself, and to verify with the business the email is supposedly from, just in case.