The recession is proving a hotbed for fraudulent activity as cybercriminals capitalise on a climate of consumer fear and anxiety.
This is one of the findings from a McAfee cyber security study in which experts warn that the threat of economic attack is diverting political attentions worldwide and cyber security is not enough of a priority around the globe for real headway to be made against the perpetrators of online crime.
Experts warn that unless significant resources are committed to international efforts to fight malicious cyber activity, there is a risk that cybercrime will impact consumer confidence, further hindering the speed of global recovery in 2009.
The annual McAfee Virtual Criminology Report examines emerging global cyber security trends, with input from leading academics, criminal lawyers, law enforcement authorities and security experts across the world.
This year's report identified the following challenges:
* The cyber credit crunch – cybercriminals are cashing in on consumer anxiety to profit from old-fashioned "get rich quick" scams. People are signing up to add malicious code to websites, lured by the promise of easy money. At the same time, desperate job seekers are being recruited as "money mules" to launder cybercriminal gains under the guise of "international sales representatives" or "shipping managers". With the economic downturn driving more people to the web to seek the best deals,
opportunities for cybercriminals to attack are on the rise as people are more easily drawn in.
* Governments are distracted – as governments are focusing on the economic downturn, the fight against cybercrime slips down their agenda, creating an opportunity for cybercrime to escalate in severity.
* The cybercop shortage – police forces on the front line often lack the specialist skills required to effectively fight cybercrime. The absence of dedicated and ongoing training, sufficient remuneration or a clear career path is causing cyberspooks to be poached by the private sector or to be lured into underground economies.
* Criminality concealed – Russia and China have become key safe havens for cybercriminals while Brazil has become one of the fastest growing "scapegoat" countries for cybercrime. Traffic is often re-routed as a decoy causing considerable misdirection in the origin of attacks.
* Information silo – problems are expanding exponentially – law enforcement is bound to physical national boundaries, while cybercriminals cooperate fast across borders. Communication between countries remains inconsistent and limited. Local issues and priorities take precedence over global efforts and international laws are being implemented with regional variations that impede the ability to negotiate jurisdiction and extradition between countries.
Jayson O'Reilly, regional director: Africa (acting) of McAfee, comments: "Cybercriminals are exploiting the global recession by luring in susceptible victims through the promise of easy money. While governments and law enforcement bodies' attentions are diverted by the current economic crisis, the door is left open for cybercrimimals to continue to target bank balances worldwide and to potentially damage the consumer trust needed to aid rapid recovery.
"Governments need to commit to funding the resources needed to combat cybercrime; bureaucratic bodies need to be rationalised and harmonised and police forces need to be coordinated across boundaries. Everyone must play their part in a global battle that has only just begun and will continue long into 2009 and beyond if it's not properly addressed."