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By 8 September 2011 | Categories: news

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According to the Norton Cybercrime report for 2011, cybercrime costs the global economy $114 billion (R815 billion) a year, and an additional  $274 billion (R1900 billion) due to lost time. South Africa is not spared, with the report finding that cybercrime cost South Africa $573 million (R4100 million) last year, with more than 4646 online adults becoming a victim of cybercrime every day in the last year, and incurring an additional $995.4 million (R7100 million) loss in time spent resolving the crime. Cybercrime encompasses viruses, malware, phishing attacks and data theft and anyone using a PC or mobile device is vulnerable.

The Cybercrime Epidemic

Rather frighteningly, the report points out that globally cybercrime costs the world significantly more than the global black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined ($288 billion). Globally, every second, 14 adults become victims of cybercrime, resulting in more than one million victims every day. And cybercrime is no less endemic in South Africa. According to the report, more than 8 in 10 adults (84%) in South Africa have been a victim of cybercrime in their lifetime. Among these, 74% have fallen prey in the last year, while 16% of South African adults online have experienced cybercrime on their mobile phone.

All indications are that cybercriminals are increasingly focusing their efforts on the mobile space. In fact, the Symantec Internet Security Threat Report reported there were 42% percent more mobile vulnerabilities globally in 2010 as compared to 2009.

The ideal victim, the prevalent crime

The report identifies men between the ages of 18 and 31 years old who access the internet from their mobile phone as being the most likely victims, as in this group 80% have fallen prey to cybercrime. Globally, the most common – and most preventable – type of cybercrime on PCs and mobile devices is computer viruses and malware, with 54% of respondents saying they have experienced it in their lifetime. The  prevalence of viruses is then followed by online scams (11%) and phishing messages (10%) in terms of the most ‘popular’ types of cybercrime.

The Unlocked Door

According to Kara Rawden, senior marketing manager, consumer – Symantec Middle East and Africa, making matters worse is that cybercrime is much more common than people realise, with too few people acknowledging its threat. “Over the past year, 62% of the adults surveyed in South Africa have suffered from online crime while 35% have experienced offline crime, yet just 20% think they are more likely to become a victim of cybercrime than physical world crime in the next year. And while 94% of respondents agree that more needs to be done to bring cybercriminals to justice, only 22% said that they reported cybercrime to the authorities,” she elaborated.

Rawden added that fighting cybercrime is a shared responsibility that “requires us all to be more alert and to invest in our online smarts and safety.”

The Open Window

She added that the disconnect between awareness and action is further illustrated by the report in that while 74% of respondents globally say they are always aware of cybercrime, many are not taking the necessary precautions; 41% of adults indicated they don’t have an up-to-date security software suite to protect their personal information online, less than half review credit card statements regularly for fraud, and 60% don’t use complex passwords or change them regularly. In South Africa, while 70% of mobile phone owners use their mobile phone to access the internet and 16% of all cybercrime in South Africa occurs on mobile devices, only 17% install the most up-to-date mobile security. The findings from the report were based on a survey conducted in 24 countries among adults between the ages of 18 and 64.

In related news, earlier this year Norton introduced the Cybercrime Index, which alerts consumers to daily online trouble-spots and hazards.

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