Page last updated at 00:03 GMT, Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Downturn 'boosting cyber-crime'

The two reports show that cyber-crime remains a serious problem

The economic downturn is "proving a hotbed" for global cyber-crime, a study by security firm McAfee has warned.

McAfee said this was because cyber-criminals were "cashing in on consumer anxiety to profit from old-fashioned 'get rich quick' scams".

At the same time, it warned government attention to the problem was being distracted by economic recovery work.

Fellow computer security group Sophos said it now found a new infected website every 4.5 seconds.

Each of these websites could lead to the user having his or her computer infiltrated, risking their identity being stolen, said Sophos in its 2009 Security Threat Report.

'Escalating severity'

McAfee warned in its latest annual Virtual Criminology Report that governments should not put all their focus on economic recovery at the expensive of fighting computer crime.

Cyber-criminals are turning their attention to other operating systems, such as Apple, and vulnerable cross-platform software

"As governments are focusing on the economic downturn, the fight against cyber-crime slips down their agenda, creating an opportunity for cyber-crime to escalate in severity," it said.

"With the economic downturn driving more people to the web to seek the best deals, opportunities for cyber-criminals to attack are on the rise as people are more easily drawn in."

McAfee added that Russia and China remained the main homes of cyber-criminals.

Sophos said that while the number of e-mails sent with infected attachments had declined from 2007 to 2008 - down from one in 909 to one in 714 - the number of malicious attachments had increased as 2008 had progressed.

It said that there were now five times more malicious e-mails being sent than at the beginning of the year.

Sophos added that the US remained the biggest source of infected websites - 37% - followed by China (27.9%) and Russia (9.1%).

It further said that malicious software was a growing problem for Apple Macintosh users.

"Although the sheer number of Windows threats far outweighs attacks against any other platform, cyber-criminals are turning their attention to other operating systems, such as Apple, and vulnerable cross-platform software."

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