The online crime business has never been better and the rising threat of cybercrime stems from criminals' realization that the Internet offers a more profitable, efficient, and less risky avenue for theft than physical attacks.
Online fraud cases referred to the Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2007 totaled $239 million, and a Symantec study of online criminal behavior and its accompanying business models concluded that credit card data is the item most sought after by online black marketeers. RSA Security researcher Uriel Maimon says the cyber black market has a global outsourcing model in which hackers in different nations sell or rent their tools or services to criminals in other nations. An increase in fraud is inevitable as growing numbers of people pay their credit card bills online, open electronic brokerage accounts, or bank on the Internet. TJX was struck by a massive network intrusion in 2006 wherein tens of millions of account numbers were compromised, while in January payment processor Heartland Payment Systems reported an even larger data breach possibly orchestrated by "a global cyber-fraud operation," says Heartland's Robert Baldwin. The incident has spurred Heartland to develop "end-to-end encryption" to shield information as it passes through the network or is stored in databases.
Intelligence and security officials also are concerned that tools and methods used by cyber-thieves could be employed by cyber-terrorists or nation-states to inflict damage on the U.S. economy. Computer-security consultant Tom Kellermann says that government, and not the market, is the only body that can fight cybercrime in a consistent manner. "The reality is, we've been building our vaults out of wood in cyberspace for too long," he warns.
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