Many today think of computer viruses and computer malware as a simple annoyance or inconvenience, but the truth may surprise most of us. In our modern and technologically interdependent society we find ourselves less analog and much more digital. Just last year the United States population was usurped by the number of wireless devices owned in the U.S (including Cellphones and tablets).
Most of us now are not more than a few feet away from a computer or mobile device throughout our entire day; as well most companies are is most ways dependent upon computers. Many of us store and live our lives through our PC’s; we keep our photos, movies, music, contacts, literature, documents, finances, credit info, and anything else really that you can think of is all kept on the computer.
It is not surprising when considering how integrated our lives have become that the next big leap for criminals and criminal organizations is how they could take advantage of the technological extension of our lives. With damages from malware and computer viruses being estimated between 300 billion toward one trillion dollars, and direct theft of over 100 billion dollars in 2011, it makes one consider the gravity of cybercrime today.
The FBI and other international agencies have been identifying small and large groups of cyber-thieves that have heavy and direct connections to syndicates and organize crime organizations. It becomes apparent that for relatively little investment and even smaller risks than other forms of crime, criminal organizations can launch a successful cyber-attacks using malware and viruses to bring in millions in rather short periods of times.
Looking at a few examples of recent cyber-threats the recent DNS Changer virus successfully running for over 4 years, and bringing in over $14 million in click fraud revenue and potentially stealing millions of users financial data through spyware installed along with the virus.
There are several examples of electronic money theft where individuals across the world were used as cash mules where they were instructed to set up bank accounts in their names, and then hundreds of millions collectively were deposited in these accounts, then they would arrange random drop offs or transfers across the world.
Finally looking at the Flame virus recently infecting government agencies and high level employees of government ran organizations being infected by what has been called the most technologically advanced computer virus, malware, and spyware ever created. It had not infected millions of computers, but only several thousand carefully selected targets. The malware has the ability to monitor every action on the computer, record conversations, and hack into nearby devices through built in wireless systems.
As we move forward into the 21st century we can expect even more prevalent threats to our own personal security, national security, and global security as cyber-attacks have become arguably the most effective methods of theft, fraud, social engineering, and espionage in the world today. It is up to all of us to become more conscious and responsible for cyber security, by taking steps in our own lives and helping others take those steps in their lives as well.