Ineffective law enforcement, bad economy fueling cybercrime

Cybercriminals exploiting the recession, banking crisis to prey upon jittery consumers

"We are seeing rounds of phishing e-mails which purport to be from banks responding to the crisis," says Philip Virgo, secretary general of London-based EURIM, a group whose membership includes high-tech vendors, businesses and British and European legislators focusing on IT policy issues. "We are also seeing a round of phony CV [resume] sites, whose main aim is to collect personal details."

Politics is also an issue. China, Russia and Moldova are often blamed as international sources for all kinds of cybercrime, and the McAfee report takes up the issue of whether there are places around the world where prosecution of cybercrime is thought to be especially lax.

"Criminal behavior is still receiving political cover," says Eugene Spafford, professor of computer sciences at Purdue University and executive director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security in the United States.

One example Spafford cites is the July cyberattack on Web sites protesting the Burmese military regime, in which the government in Myanmar was thought to have had a hand. "In the case of the Myanmar denial-of-service attacks, they took place with local Eastern European and Russian support," he says.

"Russia and China are especially reluctant to cooperate with foreign law enforcement bodies for reputation and intelligence reasons," Spafford adds.

Another contributor to the report, Dmitri Alperovitch, says he believes that Russian's President Vladimir Putin and political influence within the Federal Security Service (Russia's successor to the Soviet KGB) are hampering efforts to prosecute cybercrimes, such as those related to the Storm botnet. Alperovitch is director of intelligence analysis and hosted security at Secure Computing (recently acquired by McAfee).

McAfee says Russia is the predominant source of the most sophisticated, well-designed malware.

"The vast percentage of 'professional' malware we see today is, frankly, coming out of Russia," acknowledges Dave Marcus, director of security research and communication at McAfee Avert Labs. "We find it on Russian hosting sites and the read-me documents are in Russian."

National concerns about political uses of malware and denial-of-service attacks are growing, according to the McAfee report.

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