Cybercrime is soaring, already costs Australians more than burglary, and will only increase as more people conduct their daily lives through relatively insecure and easily lost smartphones and other mobile devices, a specialist on cybercrime says.
Marian Merritt, internet safety advocate with computer security company Norton, said a new global study showed 69 per cent of adults around the world experienced cybercrime in their lifetime, much more than previously thought because this type of crime mostly wasn't reported.
"Ten per cent of us have already experienced mobile device related cybercrime. That's cybercrime on our [mobile] phones, tablets and other devices we carry with us as we go about our business," she said.
"It's only going to get bigger because we are all doing more and more with our mobile devices," she said. Cybercrime on mobile devices has produced a new word: smishing, or SMS-based phishing which aims to gain private information.
In some countries, many people go straight to mobile devices for all their computing needs, bypassing the home PC route. More and more, mobile devices are being used for routine financial transactions.
"We are going to walk up to buy coffee and use our mobile device to make that financial transaction, we are going to check our bank balance and we are going to make purchases," she said.
"This is what's coming in the future and we need it to be safe. This is truly a phenomenon we need to take note of." Ms Merritt said part of the problem was that users didn't treat smartphones in the same way they treated their home PC.
"We are all playing little bird-related games on them. We put funny stickers on the back of them. They don't seem like serious devices that need security but boy they really are," she said.
In its fourth global review of cybercrime, Norton surveyed the experiences of 20,000 people in 24 countries including 802 in Australia.
Taking into account actual financial losses and other factors such as time lost, the study puts the global cost at $US388 billion over the last year. That makes cybercrime bigger than the combined global market for marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined.
Symantec estimates that 4.5 million Australians fell victim to cybercrime last year, suffering $1.8 billion in direct financial losses and a further $2.8 billion in time spent resolving the crime. That totals $4.6 billion. On that basis, cybercrime costs Australia more than the traditional crimes of burglary ($2.2 billion) and assault ($1.4 billion).
Norton also found that seven in ten online adults had been a victim of cybercrime in the lifetime, while 8 per cent of Australian adults had experienced cyber crime on their mobile phone.
The most common form of cybercrime relates to computer virus and malware infection (57 per cent of respondents), followed by online credit card fraud (13 per cent) and hacking of social network data (12 per cent). Worryingly, the survey said, most of this occurred in the last year.
Ms Merritt suggests some simple precautions:
- use security software and keep it up to date (Norton is of course a major vendor).
- use a password for a mobile device (something more sophisticated than 1234) so it can't be readily used if lost or stolen.
News sourced from Sydney Morning Herald.