The Internet has changed the world, providing advances that allow people to communicate, share information and conduct business in ways that were never before possible. Along with that, cybercrime has also flourished, growing by double digits year after year, and costing consumers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
McAfee has released a new report, “A Good Decade for Cybercrime,” which examines the past ten years of cybercriminal tactics and online threats, an era that dramatically changed the face of crime and proved itself a dream for scammers and fraudsters around the world, filled with opportunity and prosperity.
The Internet has grown over five-fold from the 361 million users in 2000 to nearly two billion users in 2010, according to InternetWorldStats.com. With a new onslaught of e-commerce sites and revenue opportunities, the Internet has become a trove of money and information that has proven irresistible to cybercrimnals.
“Cybercrime is one of the fastest growing and lucrative industries of our time,” said Dave Marcus, director of security research for McAfee Labs™. “From the ‘I Love You Worm’ of 2000, to today’s ever-evolving threats on social media sites, we’ve watched these cybercriminals and their tactics grow in sophistication. The days of destruction purely for bragging rights are over – now it’s all about making money and not getting caught.”
Snapshot of a Decade of Cybercrime
Top exploits representing different eras of cybercrime:
1) “I LOVE YOU” Worm’s False Affection: Estimated damage $15 billion – The “I love you” worm (named after the subject line of the email it came in) proved irresistible in 2000 as millions of users opened the spam message and downloaded the attached “love letter” file and a bitter virus. This infamous worm cost companies and government agencies $15 billion to shut down their computers and remove the infection.
2) MyDoom’s Mass Infection: Estimated damage $38 billion – This fast-moving worm first struck in 2004 and tops McAfee’s list in terms of monetary damage. Due to all the spam it sent, it slowed down global Internet access by 10% and reduced access to some websites by 50%, causing billions in dollars of lost productivity and online sales.
3) Conficker’s Stealthy Destruction: Estimated damage $9.1 billion – This 2007 worm infected millions of computers and then took its infections further than the last two worms on our list, as cybercrooks moved from notoriety to professionalism. Conficker was designed to download and install malware from sites controlled by the virus writers.
1) Fake Anti-Virus Software – Selling fake antivirus software is one of the most insidious and successful scams of recent years. Cybercrooks play on users’ fear that their computer and information is at-risk by displaying misleading pop-ups that prompt the victim to “purchase” antivirus software to fix the problem. When the victim agrees to purchase, their credit card information is stolen and they wind up downloading malware instead of security software.
2) Phishing Scams – Phishing, or trying to trick users into giving up personal information, is one of the most common and persistent online threats. Phishing can come in spam emails, spam instant messages, fake friend requests or social networking posts.
3) Phony Websites – In recent years, cybercrooks have become adept at creating fake websites that look like the real deal. From phony banking sites, to auction sites and e-commerce pages, crooks are constantly laying online traps hoping you will be fooled into entering your credit card or personal information.
Looking ahead to future cybercrime trends, McAfee Labs predicts the continuation of social networking scams and tricks, such as malicious links, phony friend requests and phishing attempts. The scams are likely to get more sophisticated and personalized, especially if users continue to share a great deal of information.