German cybercrime soaring as criminal gangs move in

Research conducted on behalf of Bitkom, the IT business association, found that around half of German internet users are victims of cybercrime.

The study, conducted by Forsa, the German research company, found an 11% rise in cybercrime since over the last 12 months, with a total of 38 000 recorded cases in the country.

Bitkom said that viruses and other malware continue to be the preferred attack methodologies for cybercriminals, with 38% of internet users affected by their actions.

But, added the business association, which has 1300 German companies of all sizes in its membership, the number of fraud cases has also risen sharply.

Phishing, the report predicts, is expected to rise by more than 50% by the end of the year.

Commenting on the report, Finjan, the web gateway specialist, said that British companies should review and reinforce their IT security defences against a similar surge in cybercrime taking place in the UK.

"The report noted an increase in internet crime largely as a result of concerned efforts on the part of criminal gangs using trojan-enabled phishing attacks", said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, Finjan's chief technology officer.

"This trend reflects our own observations here at Finjan", he added.

According to Ben-Itzhak, in Finjan's just-issued Cybercrime Intelligence Report the company's researchers found that online thieves are getting craftier at covering their tracks to go undetected for longer stretches of time.

In the report, the IT security firm noted that cybercriminals are using trojans - such as the URLzone bank trojan, as well as new anti-fraud detection tactics - to side-step rapid identification of the cybercrime by both banking customers and the banks themselves.

Ben-Itzhak explained that, unlike previous cybercrime attacks on bank accounts, the thieves that Finjan studied using the URLzone trojan to attack German banking customers actually hid the resultant fraudulent transactions from the victims.

They did this, he said, by manipulating the account statement information that is displayed on the customer's screen.

"Bitkom's figures confirm our own observations that the problem of online cybercrime is reaching unprecedented levels, as the criminal gangs behind these frauds get more and more clever."

"Against this backdrop we would urge any company wanting to use the internet for online banking - or any similar financial services - to ensure their IT security defences are both up to date and multi-layered. Only then can they access the internet securely."

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