CYBER crime is a fast-growing and lucrative industry perpetrated by cyber criminals. In fact, there is evidence showing that the total amount lost through cyber crime may have actually exceeded losses due to conventional crimes.
Cyber crime is a term for any illegal activity that uses the Internet and a computer or other electronic devices, including mobile phones and cameras, as its primary means of committing a crime.
Cyber crime includes identity theft, hacking and computer fraud and is a complex area of criminology.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C. reveals that the cost to the global economy from cyber crime in 2015 is likely to be more than US$400bil. Juniper Research in Britain recently predicted that by 2019, this loss will amount to US$2.1tril, an increase of almost five times the estimated cost of breaches in 2015.
Cyber crime is also emerging as a serious economic concern in Malaysia. CSIS estimates that the cost of cyber crime in Malaysia is 0.18% of GDP or approximately RM215mil per year. Based on statistics provided by Pemandu, Malaysia lost RM179.3mil to cyber crime in 2015.
Cyber crime has surpassed drug trafficking as the most lucrative crime. More than 70% of commercial crime cases are now categorised as cyber crime, according to the Royal Malaysia Police.
According to CyberSecurity Malaysia, the number of cyber crimes in this country has increased at an average of 10,000 cases reported each year, with the highest incidence involving online scams and hacking information systems of organisations.
Other cyber crimes reported include cyber harassment, cyber bullying, denial of service, intrusion, and those that are content related.
In another report released by Telenor Group, Digi.Com Bhd stated that an Internet Scams study showed the top three scams in Malaysia are work from home fraud (30%), Internet auction scams (22%) and online dating scams (20%).
The study found that one in five people has been a victim of both Internet auction and online dating scams, and one in 10 have had their Facebook hacked.
It is not surprising that cyber criminals are attacking and focusing on Malaysia given the high usage of the Internet here. We are now seeing a breed of cyber criminals who are bolder, harsher and more open about their activities and are looking at getting into the ranks of the world cyber crime professionals. Cyber criminals have become more sophisticated in their modus operandi and the scale of their activities has increased considerably.
The high-tech banking system, lax student visa regulations and weakness in enforcement have made Malaysia a global hub for cyber crimes.
Another major reason for the growth of cyber crime is the way it preys on the human tendency to seek the easy way to make money or gain profit. Cyber crimes offer the pretext of making quick profits and greedy people will fall prey to it despite the extensive exposure of its dangers by the authorities and cautionary tales from cheated victims.
Usually, a potential cyber criminal activity starts with an Internet promotion or special offer. Not all such offers are false but we must do some background checking before getting into business transactions with strangers on the Internet.
The public should be more careful and not be taken in by Internet promotions hook, line and sinker. The frequent media reports on such crimes should serve as a lesson to society and deter them from being tempted by these scams.
To make matters worse, in many cases the process of dealing with the damage arising from a cyber attack can be costly, time consuming and emotionally exhausting.
The number of active Internet population in this country has now exceeded 21 million, with 18 million being active on social media. While this brings great social and economic benefits to the nation, it is also heralding the more unwelcome trend of cyber crime.
DATUK AKHBAR SATAR
Director, Institute of Crime and Criminology, HELP University