Growth in Internet crime calls for growth in punishment

In its “End of Year Data Security Wrap-up” for 2008, F-Secure explains how 2008 has been another record year of explosive growth in the amount of malicious software (malware) on the Internet. F-Secure’s detection count tripled in one year, which means that the total amount of malware accumulated over the previous 21 years increased by 200% in the course of just one year.

Criminal activity for financial gain remains the driver for the massive increase in Internet threats. Today’s malware is produced by highly organized criminal gangs using increasingly sophisticated techniques. This year has seen increasing botnet activity around the world. These remotely controlled networks of infected computers remain a major challenge to the IT security industry because it is their vast computing power that is behind the unprecedented level of spam e-mail and malware distribution.

In 2008 Internet security issues once again made global news, from the huge rise in the amount of malware produced in the Chinese language during the Beijing Olympics, to attacks on the computer systems of the presidential candidates in the United States. Three major London hospitals were affected by a computer virus outbreak, while the United States Department of Defense decided to ban the use of USB memory sticks because of the security threat they pose. In 2008 malware even went into space as an online games password-stealer made its way onto the International Space Station on an infected laptop.

Bringing Internet criminals to justice remains a challenging task but there have been some recent successes. An FBI operation closed down Dark Market, an online marketplace for stolen credit card numbers and illegal Internet services. Investigative journalistic work led to the demise of McColo Corp. which hosted major botnets, resulting in a temporary fall in the amount of spam e-mail. On the corporate level, Microsoft has filed lawsuits against the purveyors of rogue security applications attempting to scare Internet users into buying worthless products.

Despite these successes, Internet crime is now more prevalent and more professional than ever before. F-Secure believes that against a background of steeply increasing Internet crime, the obvious inefficiency of the international and national authorities in catching, prosecuting and sentencing Internet criminals is a problem that needs to be solved. A call for the establishment of “Internetpol” to tackle online crime – made by Mikko Hypp?¶nen, F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer – has been received with great interest internationally.

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