Credit crunch fuels growth in cybercrime

UK cybercrime has rebounded to worrying levels, not seen since 2006, as a result of the recession and consumer complacency, according to Garlik’s annual UK Cybercrime report, now in its third year.

The report, which analyses publicly available data to build a comprehensive view of cybercrime in the UK, revealed that {{during 2008 cybercriminals adapted to the social and economic changes in the UK to exploit victims in new ways and commit over 3.6 million criminal acts online}} (that’s over one every 10 seconds). In addition, the researchers believe that there is a growing complacency amongst consumers demonstrating poor understanding of their responsibility to protect their personal information against fraud.

One of the most significant changes in cybercrime has been the 207% increase in account takeover[1] fraud indicating that criminals have now shifted their efforts from opening new accounts with stolen identities to accessing existing accounts. Savvy criminals have got round the drying up of available credit in the current economic climate to maintain their illegal activities.

“We fear that account takeover fraud will continue to increase in 2009 due to the decline of available credit and tighter credit checking by the banks,” commented Tom Ilube, CEO, Garlik. “Consumers must be extra vigilant of all their online and financial accounts as well as avoiding increasingly convincing phishing scams.”

The report also highlights that online banking fraud has increased by a staggering 132%, with losses totalling £52.5 million, compared to £22.6 million in the previous year. This sharp rise can be mostly attributed to nearly 44,000 phishing websites specifically targeting banks and building societies in the UK.

The total number of cybercrimes has increased annually between 2006 and 2008, however, the good news is that sexual offences have decreased as a category each year. All other categories dipped in 2007 but then in 2008 bounced back above their 2006 figure.

“One possible explanation for the sharp rise in cybercrime lies in the consumer reaction to it. Identity theft in particular received a great deal of media and public attention in 2006. As a result, many consumers took the first steps to protect themselves, buying shredders and anti-malware software to feel secure but have since become too complacent and as a result have been hit by the next wave of cybercrime,” commented Dr Stefan Fafinski, Invenio Research.

Ilube concluded, “As threats shift and change, it is essential for consumers to take steps for their own safety: even if they think that it is ‘someone else’s problem’. It is not. Consumers need to be smart online and stay one step ahead of the cybercriminals.”

For a full copy of the report please visit Cybercrime Report

[1] Account takeover means the ability to access individuals’ accounts, whether these be bank accounts, mail accounts, social networking accounts and so on, to commit fraud.

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