The researchers at F-Secure"s Security Labs have mapped the shifts in Internet crime trends since 1986. Internet crime has evolved and show a shift from Europe and North America to India, China and Africa.
In past (1986-2003)
- Old-school virus writers operating from areas in Europe, United States, Australia and India.
- Era characterised by opportunistic 'hobbyists" learning their craft.
In present (2003-2007)
- Hobbyism replaced by professional, targeted attacks.
- Malware creation hotspots growing in the former Soviet countries (such as Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia). Other major areas of criminal activity are Brazil and China, which have large numbers of individuals with sophisticated computing skills but without the job opportunities to make a living for themselves in the IT sector. Online crime often presents a more lucrative path to raising living standards for people like these.
In future (2008 onwards)
- New e-criminal groups likely to appear in Mexico and Africa.
- Internet crime becoming even more sophisticated with targeted attacks and exploits. This is a result of the alignment between broadband penetration and socio-economic factors such as economic development and lack of IT employment opportunities.
- Internet usage is growing fastest in Asia, followed by Africa. IT job growth will be lacking behind, creating a breeding ground for online criminals.
- In many countries there will be a delay before the legal system catches up with developments in the IT sector. Computer criminals may also be able to escape the law more easily in countries which are undergoing serious political and security problems.
Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure, believes malware creation hotspots are defined by a number of socio-economic causes – particularly in terms of job opportunities.
“Within the last few years, Internet take-up in emerging markets has been phenomenal. For example, Brazil now has over two million Internet users," says Hypponen. “And coincidentally, since 2003, computer crime has really taken off in Brazil, China and the former Soviet countries."
“The trend is expected to continue and spread into areas such as Africa, India and Central America," predicts Hypponen. “This is partly due to the limited IT job prospects in these markets. People are developing sophisticated computer skills, but have limited opportunities to profit from them legally."