"Identity fraud has been dropping until last year, boom, there was a turn-up," Javelin Research’s president James Van Dyke said in an interview with Reuters. "The only thing we can logically attribute that to is the economy. If people need to make money, and decide to do so illicitly, identity fraud is the logical opportunity."
Experts and law-enforcement officials who track online crime attest that scams have escalated in the past six months, capitalizing on anxiety over the recession to target both businesses and consumers, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. Research company Gartner sited reports of cyber attacks on banks throughout the world having doubled in the past 6 months; at the same time, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, which receives consumer complaints of cyber crime and fraud, has confirmed an increase in cyber attacks.
Without a doubt, the underground malware economy is booming. During November 2008 through January 2009, malware analysts at online security company, Lavasoft, saw a 169 percent increase in the total number of threats added to the Detection Database of their flagship anti-spyware product, Ad-Aware, compared to the three preceding months.
What accounts for this trend? While it may be difficult to directly prove whether criminals are becoming increasingly desperate – as some sources contend – or even if more individuals are joining the ranks of the online crime world – as others say – certain types of attacks are being linked to the economic downturn. To put it simply, today’s cyber criminals know how to take advantage of current events to profit from consumers.
Many of the ploys that have kicked into high gear in recent months are the techniques that prey on the vulnerabilities of today’s consumers, playing off of users’ fears to leverage the current financial climate. Currently, the increased desire to save money, make money, or read news about the economic situation around the world makes unsuspecting computer users easier targets for misleading marketing and schemes.
Lavasoft malware analysts have seen an increase in techniques related to exploiting the fear and worry around the recession, shown by way of spam manipulating the credit crunch and job market – topics attempting to spur interest either by focusing on dire news or, in contrast, with uplifting promises.
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