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Tuesday Talk: Man's been to the moon, but never to cyberspace

14 Aug 2012

While the days of stuffing a kilo of illegal substances up some unholy crevice to board an international flight remain troublingly frequent, the more astute criminals of our modern millennia need not leave their home for the big pay-day.

At the old cliched click of a button, the corrupt soles of our existence can pick our proverbial back-pocket within minutes of our web browsers loading - as cybercrime continues to expand its expensive operation.

Recent findings published in the Norton CyberCrime 2011 report shows the worldwide cost and extent of online crime to be US$388bn.

Numbers on a screen are just that however, but given cybercrime currently holds a bigger global black market value than marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined ($288bn) and is fast approaching the value of all global drugs trafficking ($411bn) then maybe, Houston, we do have a problem.

But implying cybercrime has reared its ugly head again would be to suggest it actually went away. With 14 victims every second, equating to over a million worldwide per day, the dub-dub-dub debate is no longer a back and forth discussion - it's become worryingly one-way.

Costing over 100 times the annual expenditure of UNICEF, affecting 431m adults per year, stats regarding cybercrime roll off the tongue with concerning alarm.

So the $388bn question is this…how do we stop it?

To promote safer use of the internet, creating a social mentality is compulsory. Forget your self-help and prevention tips, reminding a person to log out with due care and attention is all well and good, but in essence everything documented in such guides is common sense - the absolute basic principles of internet browsing that should now be common occurrence to the average user.

The reason why people are lax with their data online is not because they are stupid or incapable of safely surfing the web - they simply don't see the problem.

There is no other logical explanation for the effortless ease it takes hackers to login, loot and logout. If the world was a barrel, hackers would be looking down from cyberspace firing bullets for fun - picking off pin numbers and bank details during the time it takes to read this article.

Raising awareness is paramount but also nothing new. Governments and internet safety groups seem to be raising the wrong awareness, however, as a statistic overload can become scrabbled data very quickly. In a world where the shock factor has been diluted somewhat - a Plan B is needed to rid a problem that on the surface appears more than manageable.

Users relying on security software are hiding behind a glass shield given over 80% of cyber attacks could be prevented by simple precautions. Presuming your anti-virus will work is fine, but it can only do so much if you are flaunting your assets to all and sundry online.

For online crime to be as 'lucrative' as the worldwide drugs trade is eye-opening but while facts and figures can be shocking, they essentially sit on a webpage carrying little significance and impact. Until users actually grasp the enormity, engrain it into their browser brain and allow it to become part of their lives - nothing will change.

As the 14 unfortunate victims pick up the pieces of cybercrime during the reading of this sentence - another 14 are sitting there patiently, with blissful ignorance and open wallets.

Governments and co can only do so much and users need to take responsibility. Advice is easily accessible, written in the stars and broadcast like a beacon, but help always starts at home.

The onus is 100% on the individual to avoid succumbing to that dreaded galaxy far, far, away.

Do you think users should be more responsible for their own safety? Tell us your thoughts below.

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