10s of Billions Lost in Decade of Cybercrime

  • Decade of online crime costs billions
  • One third of humanity connected online
  • Social networking scams big over next decade

Following the world’s anticlimactic scramble against Y2K, cybercriminals looked for ways to make money and cause damage; explosion of social media and mobile devices created new opportunities, according the latest McAfee cybercrime report that looks over the past decade of online criminal activity.

Cybercrime has flourished over the last decade, growing by double digits year after year, and costing consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Ten years ago, cybercrime was a completely different business”, said Michael Sentonas, McAfee CTO for APAC. “Over the last decade, cybercriminals and their tactics have grown in complexity and sophistication. Attacks have become more targeted and users more vulnerable as more sensitive and personal information is stored on the Internet.”

Over the past ten years, Internet use has exploded, growing 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 cybercrooks.

Top exploits representing different eras of cybercrime:

  •  “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.
  • 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 percent and reduced access to some websites by 50 percent, causing billions in dollars of lost productivity and online sales.
  • 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.

Top Scams:

  • Fake anti-virus software – Selling fake anti-virus 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 personalised, especially if users continue to share a great deal of information.