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Largest illegal industry? Cyber crime

August 02, 2006 14:12 IST

Do you remember the last time a major virus threat was announced? It was more than a year ago. Does this mean that cyber crimes have reduced? Niraj Kaushik, country manager (India - SAARC), Trend Micro, begs to differ.

He says: "There are at least 30 virus outbreaks everyday in different parts of the world, as compared to the 2-3 major virus outbreaks that used to take place every month last year."

The cyber crime world is thriving and is among the largest illegal revenue-earning industries today.

According to Valier Mc Niven, US Treasury Advisors report, "global cyber crime turned in more money than drug trafficking last year".

Explaining that the reason for no large-scale virus attacks, Vijay Mukhi, chief security, Nasscom, says, "Cyber crime is now ruled by the professional mafia which does not want publicity. As such, viruses have become stealthier, don't spread unnecessarily, and are invisible. They are customised for a specified target."

A Symantec Internet Security Threat Report released in March 2006 affirms attackers have moved away from large, multipurpose attacks on network perimeters toward smaller, more focused attacks on client-side targets.

The report, which recorded various attacks from June to December 2005, states there were 1,896 new vulnerabilities recorded in the second half of 2005 - the highest recorded number since 1998.

Symantec, states the report, detected an average of 7.9 million phishing attempts per day - an increase of 39 per cent over the first half of 2005. Over the year it documented 40 per cent more vulnerabilities in 2005 than in 2004. Spam also made up 50 per cent of all monitored email traffic.

Moreover, cyber threats have evolved from single threats to complex structures. For instance, there are blended threats where spyware, phishing, and others similar cyber threats work in different permutations and combinations.

Phishing, however, continues to be the primary threat. Anil Chakravarthy Head (India Technical Operations), Symantec says: "Blended attacks are on the rise and it is difficult to classify these attacks under any particular category."

The changing nature of cyber crime can also be ascertained from the recent incidence of the BPO fraud committed at the HSBC call centre in Bangalore. Here the employee involved was the front-end face for a professional group of criminals based in London who stole £233,000 from the various customers bank accounts.

Says Chakravarthy: "We are preparing for a world where the risk is not to the machine but to an extended environment that is the infrastructure, information and transaction."

Sapna Agarwal