AVG report warns about cyber crime catastropheBy Ryan Noik 19 September 2011 | Categories: news
A new report commissioned by the internet security company AVG has revealed that the explosion in size and complexity of global cyber crime, combined with the surprising complacency of younger users, is making security a real concern. The report, authored by the research agency The Future Laboratory, was commissioned by AVG and is based on an online survey that was conducted last month. It polled the opinions of 7000 respondents above 18 years old living in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, the UK and the Czech Republic.
The report elaborated that while cyber-criminals and malicious programs are becoming increasingly sophisticated and difficult to detect, users are alarmingly becoming less vigilant about protecting their online devices. It is the combination of these two factors that is setting the stage for a “potentially disastrous cyber crime scenario.”
Also highlighted in the report is the phenomenon of so-called ‘wetware’, in which the weak link in the security chain is not the technology but rather the human user. This means that the growing risk stems not just from technology (software or hardware) but increasingly from human action (wetware). The report explained that cyber-criminals are increasingly focusing on deceiving the human user rather than the machine or device, by fooling the user into downloading and installing malicious software by posing as anti-virus providers or other trusted sources.
The author of the report, Dr Antonia Ward of The Future Laboratory, explained that it was clear that cyber-criminals were becoming more and more sophisticated, not only in their programming but also in their methods. “The idea that they’re moving from utilising weaknesses in the software to attacking the ‘wetware’ is a disturbing one, and demands that we respond by improving people’s awareness of these rogue programs so that they aren’t so easily deceived,” continued Ward.
The report further found that cyber crime was on the increase, as the tools and tactics which were previously used by hackers to cause disruption to machines and networks, have been monetised by criminal gangs through bank fraud and ID theft. Making matters worse was that, while smartphones have increasingly become mini PCs, users were failing to realise that this makes them as vulnerable to cyber crime as a computer. The report cited that just 4% of French internet and smartphone users were concerned about smartphone viruses, despite the fact that money can be taken almost unnoticed through premium rate SMS fraud – which is a crime that was likely to go unnoticed.
Additionally, while users were aware of the need for antivirus protection, nearly one in ten of those surveyed fail to keep their protection updated. Alarmingly, the 18 to 35 age group was found to be particularly complacent about this. Even more disturbing was the assertion in the report that the growing integration of the internet into physical systems would make the public increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attack, and open up new opportunities for hackers to cause harm and havoc.
“The potential impact of cyber crime must not be underestimated. It’s increasingly evident that each unprotected individual makes us all vulnerable, so it’s vital that as a global society we find ways to address this trend and ensure that we are protected together,” stressed JR Smith, the chief executive officer of AVG Technologies.
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