Computer Crime Research Center


Cyber Crimes and Online Bullying Affect 44% of Small Irish Businesses

Date: January 10, 2008
By: Kelly O'Connell

An Irish study reveals that cyber crimes such as bullying and fraud are a significant problem for island commerce and take away vitality and profits from the smaller business sector with a presence on the web. Assistant Director of the Small Firms Association, Avine McNally said, "Firms are increasing their use of information technology (IT) and the internet on a daily basis, and while this brings enormous benefits to the business, firms must realise that they are vulnerable when online. Businesses face a growing problem over online crime, increased spam and cyber bullying and many companies will face future legal action if they fail to have adequate safeguards in place to protect their IT systems and staff from these problems."

The list of crimes perpetrated against the small Irish firms includes internet scams, identity fraud, phishing and data theft. McNally stressed that Irish small businesses must keep up the vigilance and bolster online security after a recent study showed 44% of businesses were the victim of cyber crime, and a recent SFA survey revealed 5% of small Irish businesses who are established upon the net were the victim of fraud. The costs of these incidents went as high as €25,000 per company, showing how easily a small firm could receive a devastating and perhaps unrecoverable blow to their liquidity.

The study lists fake email surges, or "spam spikes" as a particular problem, as McNally pointed out the dangers of these, saying, "spammers increasingly innovate and employ new methods to elude businesses' traditional anti-spam solutions. 'Spam spikes', as these attacks are known, occurs when individual domains are aggressively targeted. These attacks can be very threatening to small businesses in particular, as their e-mail servers become overloaded, preventing receipt of communications and orders from customers." McNally urges small businesses to be more vigilant, and expresses hope that a security "multi-layered security approach" be employed.

Another problem noted by the study is the increase of cyber bullying when victims are abused, tormented, threatened, harangued, or harassed by another web user, which is a real problem for private and business persons. McNally believes small firms must have a strategy to deal with this issue, saying "Companies are easily exposed to claims of harassment and bullying in the workplace, originating in internet use and many employers are unclear how to tackle cyber bullying because it is a sensitive subject, and a relatively new problem. Under the Employment Equality Acts, 1998 &2004, awards can be made up to two years remuneration, in the case of a harassment claim, whilst compensation in civil actions can be unlimited, so these issues should be taken very seriously by every business. Companies should immediately update or implement 'Bullying &Harassment Policies' to take into account these newer developments."

Other surveys have shown cybercrime on the Emerald Isle to be rife, with 98% of Irish organizations claiming they were victimized, and 86% suffering attacks during 2006, according to University College Dublin research, representing the first national study of the phenomena. Most interesting about the survey was the presence of cyber harassment, a crime not normally associated with business online problems. It was reported to be derived both internally -- 39% of the time, and from external sources -- 42% of the time, and so represents a problem that defies an easy solution.

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