Do I Need to be Concerned About Cybercrime?

The short answer is yes! You should be concerned. And even if you’re not concerned for yourself, with the Internet all of us are interconnected so cybercrime does not just affect one person or one group, but all of us.

Imagine your body being targeted by 100 million viruses. That is exactly what cybercriminals are doing to your networked digital devices. Laptops, desktops, Macs, iPads, iPhones, BlackBerrys, Androids and Symbian mobile phones are all at risk. Research from McAfee Labs reveals a variety of threats that exist “in the wild” that you need to be aware of.

Malware: For 2012, new malware sample discoveries increased 50% with more than 120 million samples. The nature of the threats aimed at PC users continues to become more dangerous and sophisticated as the cybercriminals invent new ways to disguise their activity. PC-targeted malware saw an increased growth in drive-by downloads (read my blog on this), which allows a cybercriminal to surreptitiously download malware from a website without your knowledge. Cybercriminals have clearly figured out that user authentication credentials constitute some of the most valuable intellectual property that can be found on most computers.

Spam and phishing: Believe it or not, spam volume has decreased…to a mere one trillion messages per month. McAfee Labs has observed major developments in targeted spam, or what’s often called “spear phishing.” By using information they collect about you, spear phishers create more realistic messages that increase the chance you will click.

Bad URLs: The number of new suspicious URLs increased by 70% in Q4 2012, averaging 4.6 million new, suspect URLs per month. This is almost double the previous 2.7 million per month figure from the last two quarters. 95% of these URLs were found to be host malware, exploits or code designed specifically to compromise your computers.

Mobile: The number of mobile malware samples discovered by McAfee Labs in 2012 was 44x the number found in 2011. This means that 95% of all mobile malware samples ever seen appeared in the last year. Also cybercriminals are now dedicating essentially all of their efforts to attacking Android, with 97% of malware samples found in the last year aimed at this one operating system.

Besides the proliferation in the amount of mobile devices, there are a number or reasons why cybercriminals are targeting mobile including:

Valuable information that can be found on your mobile devices, including passwords and contacts and the fact that 36% of users lacking basic protection such as a PIN to lock the device

New “opportunities” to make money, such as malware that sends premium text messages that you get charged for but not notice on your device

The fact that some users “hack” their phones to customize the interface or add functionality, thus allowing hackers to exploit the device’s vulnerabilities

The ability to install malware that blocks software updates from your carrier – some of which are designed to protect against security holes

The threat landscape continues to evolve on many fronts in ways that threaten both consumers, small-to-medium-sized businesses and large enterprises. This is why it is critical for you to use comprehensive security software on all your devices, like McAfee All Access, and keep it up to date.

Source: McAfee Q4 2012 Threats Report

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  (Disclosures)