The New Grounds for Cybertheft

Theft used to be limited to stealing of physical goods or the classic burglar robbing the bank for cash. Now the concept of theft has radically changed as the digital age advances and the lines between the physical and virtual become blurred. Most people know cybercrime for its stealing of people’s money from their bank accounts through hacking, but new reports, from companies like McAfee, indicate that cybertheives are targeting intellectual data such as company trade secrets, proprietary patents, and valuable company information.

Personal Information Still Hot

The market for hacked bank accounts and personal information is still hot. Links have been made to the mafia and underground street gangs that use that information to do identity theft – posing as someone else with forged documents. Most of this information is available on IRC chat rooms, where anyone can join the low-profile chat sessions and scroll through lists of credit card numbers, social insurance numbers, and various sensitive personal information being sold for nominal amounts. Believe it or not, stealing of personal information is quite easy. Sniffers and packet grabbers can easily be used to catch data from wired and wireless networks. Social engineering is even easier as people are duped into giving their information thinking that they are accessing a real website, while they’re only accessing a fake website created to capture personal information.

Intellectual Theft

The more lucrative market for cybertheft is based on stealing company secrets. Proprietary information such as patents, company plans, R&D information, etc are all areas where higher level of hacking is occurring. Doug Cooke, director for sales engineering for McAfee Canada, said that while companies do good in protecting credit card information,

“…they don’t do as well in protecting intellectual capital like trade secrets.”(1)

This information can be sold to competitors both national and international. This leads us to a whole different discussion about how hacking is used against competitors on a regular basis to edge the other out, but what Cooke does say about this new level of cybercrime is that:

“We think cybercriminals are now researching the companies they want to go after.”(2)

This is scary news for any business. Not only are these hackers targeting trade secrets, they are precision planning their attacks, and that means more damage for the companies being attacked. This type of crime seems far easier to get away with as compared to credit card theft where the credit card companies actually try to hunt down the cybercriminals.

Small and medium business can protect themselves to a large extent by using proper procedures to guard their network. Although most networks can be broken into, having better security measures does help reduce the impact of an attack. For this, I would refer you to my article series on Security which you can access here:



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