Internet Law

Cyber Crime Does, Increasingly, Pay

Cyber crime has become more sophisticated, more stealthy, and more successful than ever before, as ill-intentioned Internet “malware” experts refine their methods to take advantage of the popularity of new technology and applications.

In addition to sneaking their malicious software onto trusted high-traffic sites such as and, cyber criminals are also acting like legitimate big businesses and using sophisticated marketing techniques, reports the Washington Post in a lengthy article detailing noteworthy tactics of 2007.

Worse, they are also becoming organized into sophisticated international espionage and crime rings that could do unprecedented damage, says aCMP Channel article discussing the release of the latest McAfee Virtual Criminology Report. Most such crime, however, will be economically motivated, one expert predicts.

Increasing trends in 2007 include software that personalizes spam e-mail—which often, now, includes the recipient’s full name. And, as is discussed in an earlier post, some individuals responsible for so-called phishing attacks seeking personal information that can be used for identity-theft fraud are targeting wealthy individuals, such as the Forbes 400. By spending more time on those with more assets, perpetrators apparently believe, they can expect, overall, to steal larger amounts of money.

Just like legitimate businesses, cyber criminals today are trying to put themselves front-and-center on millions of computer screens. “The attackers are now following the same path that businesses have, in trying to advertise themselves in their own special way on the more popular Web sites,” says Tom Liston, who works with SANS Internet Storm Center in Bethesda, Md., and Intelguardians, an Internet security group based in Washington, D.C. “They’re doing exactly what every business tries to do, which is to find innovative ways get themselves out in front of as many eyeballs as possible.”

The problem is that because of the increasing sophistication of such cyber attacks, it can be very difficult to distinguish legitimate Internet advertisements from scams. “In an alarming number of cases this year, phishing e-mails contained personal details about the recipients in both the salutation and body of the messages,” the newspaper reports.

Meanwhile, mistakenly trusting scam e-mails and Internet advertising can be very costly, in time as well as in money. That is prompting some lawyers to ponder how viable tort claims might be brought over such wrongdoing, as an ABA Journal cover story discussed last year.

Identity theft is the fastest-growing and most common crime in America, surpassing drug trafficking, reports PR Newswire. There have been 27.3 million identity theft victims in the past five years, and almost 20 million in the last two, according to a Javelin Strategy & Research study. The estimated cost of this identity theft to all victims exceeds $56 billion annually. “Latest ID Theft Target: Mayor Bloomberg.” “First ID Theft Case Over PC File-Sharing?.” “UK Web Jihad Case Linked to US Fraud.”

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