Symantec takes Cybercrime on tour
An interactive and immersive exhibition demonstrating first-hand how cybercriminals operate to steal identities and millions of dollars from innocent Web users, Symantec's Internet Black Market simulation also hopes to help the public understand the variety of online threats and the personalities behind them.
Making a recent stop in Toronto, some statistics revealed were both telling and frightening.
> From 2002 to 2008, there was a 200 per cent increase in malicious activity on the Internet;
> Online crime happens every quarter of a second;
> One in five persons will be a victim of cybercrime or identity theft;
> In 2009 alone, Symantec discovered 1 million new threats that it had to resolve and expects this number to rise to 3 million by the end of 2010.
The Black Market exhibit, which toured New York, London, Tokyo, Mexico and Washington, is a series of elaborate rooms depicting the Internet underground. One room was made to look like bargain shop or a convenience store where people's identities, bank records and personal information were displayed for sale like common groceries, an analogy of how easy it is for criminals to purchase mailing lists, credit card information and entire identities from the Internet.
A second room replicated a hacker's lair. It had a series of LCD screens simulating common hacking techniques taking place from both the victim and the criminal's point of view.
Marc Fossi of Symantec walked visitors through a typical keylogging attack that hackers use to capture delicate user information. Once a target on a compromised computer starts typing, the hacker's PC begins to record all the keystrokes opening up access to personal and financial information.
Fossi, who publishes the Internet Security Threat Report for Symantec, also discussed challenge of dealing with "botnets," a network of compromised slave computers, and the havoc they can cause by taking down websites.
Part of the event included a history of lesson on computer viruses as they mutated from the pranks played by students in the 70's to the more devastating worms and trojans of today that have caused businesses billions of dollars.
Acting Staff Sergeant Vern Crowley of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) was also on hand to give some insight on who is behind the threats.
"There are the organized crime syndicates and there are the non-organized groups of individuals who share computer exploits," Crowley explained.
He added the difficulty of finding these groups is due to the distributed nature of the Internet. "It is truly international; they could be sitting here in Toronto. They could be in South East Asia or in Eastern Europe."
Sergeant Crowley mentioned phishing scams, Ebay fraud and bogus antivirus software downloads as the most common criminal activities online.
"We at the Ontario Provincial Police need everyone out there to be a bit more aware of what they are doing online." Crowley implored. "We don't have the resources to respond to all the crimes so people need to be educated."