Next year could be a very good year for online crime if the economy gets any worse, security vendor McAfee warned.
Governments will be too busy grappling with economic issues, while desperate job seekers will become easy targets for cybercriminals, according to its annual cybersecurity survey, the McAfee Virtual Criminology Report.
Law enforcement is another problem. Police forces are not adequately trained to fight cybercrime. Cross-border law enforcement is made difficult because agencies tend to act locally rather than globally, and international laws are not being implemented uniformly worldwide.
The report does contain some hopeful notes. The problems may become easier to solve if the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama implements the suggestions just made by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Pamela Warren, McAfee’s cybercrime strategist, told InternetNews.com.
“I was really glad to see CSIS tackle those things as part of the overall study,” Warren said.
The CSIS, a nonprofit think tank focusing on security policy, suggested that the new administration make cybersecurity a national priority. It urged U.S. law enforcement agencies to work more closely with their counterparts abroad in order to combat Internet-based security threats.
It also urges the Department of Justice to examine laws governing criminal investigations of online crimes in order to increase their clarity, speed up investigations and better protect privacy.
And it suggests major improvements in how online credentials are deployed and enforced.
The suggestions arrive as criminal behavior gets more sophisticated online.
Cybercriminals are finding new ways of laundering stolen money, such as by using non-bank payment services like e-gold, which makes it harder to trace them. E-gold is a kind of digital currency that allows for the instant transfer of gold ownership. It can be impossible to trace because account holders are provided anonymity.
Meanwhile, governments are too preoccupied with the economic crisis to be able to tackle cybercrime, but must continue to ramp up resources in the fight against cybercriminal activity even in the face of global economic recession, the McAfee report said. However, governments do not see cybersecurity as a priority due to technical ignorance and lack of foresight of its widespread and longer-term risks.
Law enforcement authorities lack adequately trained personnel to sift through and use digital evidence, the report said. Those who are trained are either hired away by the private sector or, in some cases, recruited by the criminal underground. Further, outmoded laws see sentencing based on the level of physical damage, whereas, with cybercrime, the damage is not only physical.
In many states, cyberlaws are not clear as to whether botnets are illegal. Because different countries have different laws, and different definitions of crimes, it is difficult to conduct cross-border investigations or accurate statistics, the McAfee report said.
The cybercriminals may also be getting protection from their own governments. According to the McAfee report, Russian President Vladimir Putin and political influence within the Federal Security Service (Russia’s successor to the Soviet KGB) are hampering prosecution of the people behind the Storm worm, one of the most destructive worms to hit companies recently.