Computer Crime Research Center


A click away from a mugging

Date: September 20, 2004
Source: Australian IT
By: Sonia Wolf

The computer has replaced the gun as the ideal weapon as criminals turn increasingly to the internet as a tool for separating Joe Public from his money, crime-fighters warned at an international conference here.

Cyber-attacks on the unwary "are becoming more and more frequent and more and more serious," Andy Letherby of Britain's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit told a gathering of 200 experts at a Council of Europe conference on "The Challenge of Cybercrime" that ended in Strasbourg on Friday.

The border-free virtual world with its easy anonymity, instantaneous communications, relative lack of material evidence and hundreds of millions of potential victims has become favoured terrain for organised crime, experts warned.

As an example Letherby cited a protection racket organised against Russian bookmakers following a recent cyber-attack.

Subsequently, "the blackmailers sent demands by email via chat-rooms for $US10,000 ($14,360) a month as a 'protection' fee," he said.

"Not just the police but also the public needs to be educated on cybercrime," Letherby commented.

One of the most common scams at the moment is to send individuals with online bank accounts an official-seeming request for confidential details, which in fact enables crooks to siphon money off the account.

Cyber-threats range from spam to paedophilia and include viruses, computer hacking, theft of bank and credit card details, deactivation of sales services, identity theft, fraud, money laundering, computer blackmail and incitement to racial hatred.

A statistically tiny proportion of responses to the thousands of solicitations that they send out may be enough to reap a handsome reward for cyber-criminals.

The most outlandish requests, as in the well-known cases of the seemingly thousands of African "businessmen" who ask for help in transferring funds to Europe, can find a willing victim, specialists noted.

"It is much easier and less risky for a crook to steal money via internet that to carry out a hold-up," Letherby said.
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