A Good Decade for Cybercrime

Cybercrime is one of the most successful and lucrative industries of our time, growing by double digits year after year. Over the last decade, cyber crooks have developed new and sophisticated ways to prey on an explosion of Internet users, with little danger of being caught. Meanwhile, consumers face greater risks to their money and information each year.

A few famous exploits illustrate different eras of cybercrime:

“I Love You” worm’s false affection: $15 billion estimated damage

Emails with the subject line “I love you” proved irresistible in 2000. Millions of users downloaded the attached file, which was supposedly a love letter but was actually a virus. This infamous worm cost companies and government agencies $15 billion.

MyDoom’s mass infection: $38 billion estimated damage

This fast-moving worm, which first struck in 2004, tops McAfee’s list in terms of monetary damage. It delivered enough spam to slow global Internet access by 10% and reduce access to some websites by 50%, costing billions of dollars in lost productivity and online sales.

Conficker’s stealthy destruction: $9.1 billion estimated damage

This 2008 worm infected millions of computers. It went a step further than the other two worms on our list, downloading and installing a variety of malware that gave hackers remote control over victims’ PCs.

Some of the most common and nefarious scams include:

Fake antivirus software

Selling fake antivirus software is one of the most insidious and successful scams in recent years. Cyber criminals play on users’ fears that their computers and information are at risk, displaying misleading pop-ups that prompt the victim to purchase antivirus software to fix the problem. When victims enter their credit card information, it is stolen and, instead of security software, they wind up downloading malware.

Phishing scams

Phishing, or trying to trick users into giving up personal information, is one of the most common and persistent online threats. Phishing messages can come in the form of spam emails, spam instant messages, fake friend requests, or social networking posts.

Phony websites

In recent years, cyber crooks have become adept at creating fake websites that look like the real deal. From phony online banking to auction sites and e-commerce pages, hackers lay traps in the hopes that you will be fooled into entering your credit card number or personal information.

For your own peace of mind, consider subscribing to an identity theft protection service such as McAfee Identity Protection, which offers proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your accounts, and access to fraud resolution agents. For additional tips, visit CounterIdentityTheft.com.

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him explain how to protect yourself from identity theft on CounterIdentityTheft.com. (Disclosures)

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