Business booming for cyber criminals

Cyber criminals continued to form “pseudo corporations” and hired people to compromise high-traffic, trusted websites last year, resulting in threats growing dramatically on the Internet in 2008, says a report from Symantec Inc. (Nasdaq:SYMC).

MONTREAL — Cyber criminals continued to form “pseudo corporations” and hired people to compromise high-traffic, trusted websites last year, resulting in threats growing dramatically on the Internet in 2008, says a report from Symantec Inc. (Nasdaq:SYMC).

The threats primarily targeted the confidential information of computer users, such as credit card information.

The number of advertisements for illegal credit card information in the underground online economy increased from 2007, Symantec spokesman Marc Fossi said Wednesday.

“Business is booming for them,” Fossi said of the digital thieves.

Cyber criminals have organized groups and the increased activity is related to the fact that people are paid to write malicious code, he said.

“It’s part of this whole pseudo corporation thing,” Fossi said from Calgary.

Fossi is the executive editor of the global report, produced by the company that sells the Norton anti-virus and computer security software products.

He said the cyber crime organizations can have different “business units,” he said, adding some people are hired to create spam email, others to write malicious computer code and yet others to create web pages that mimic legitimate websites to to steal personal information such as passwords.

These so-called employees can be self-taught or have a higher education, said Fossi.

“They very mysterious and shadowy,” Fossi said, adding the best known group is likely the so-called Russian Business Network.

“It’s safe to say it’s a recession-proof industry,”

Spam — which is unwanted but not necessarily illegal email — jumped 192 per cent across the Internet, the report said.

There were almost 350 million detected spam messages last year, up from about 120 million in 2007, Symantec said. Bot networks, which take over unsecured computers, were responsible for about 90 per cent of all spam email last year.

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