12 September 2011

Afraid and agog

Be afraid, very afraid! This time the nasty is the Norton Cybercrime Report [PDF], fervent advertorial that proclaims -
Cybercrime has become a silent global digital epidemic. This shocking truth is uncovered by the Norton Cybercrime Report: The Human Impact.

This groundbreaking study exposes the alarming extent of cybercrime and the feelings of powerlessness and lack of justice felt by its victims worldwide. It identifies people’s intense emotions towards the perpetrators and the often flawed actions people take to prevent and resolve cybercrime. The study nails down the true cost of cybercrime while raising questions about people’s own online ethics and behavior.

This report shows that every click matters. It highlights the need for better awareness and education for all Internet users and puts forward expert insights and advice on how we can take back the Internet from the cybercriminals.
And who better to help you, of course, than Norton (aka Symantec)!

The report is based on some 7,000 adults from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, UK and the US. It defines cybercrime as including computer viruses/malware; online credit card fraud; online hacking; online harassment; online identity theft; online scams (eg fraudulent lotteries/employment opportunities); online sexual predation and phishing.

The authors of the 'shock & awe' powerpoint-style report claim that -
For the first time, this report reveals that nearly two thirds of adults globally have been a victim of some kind of cybercrime (65%). Cybercrime hotspots where adults have experienced cybercrime include: 83% China, 76% Brazil/India, 73% USA.

Computer viruses and malware attacks are the most common types of cybercrime people suffer from, with 51% of adults globally feeling the effects of these.

In New Zealand, Brazil and China it's even worse, with more than six out of 10 computers getting infected (61%, 62% and 65% respectively).

Adults around the world have also been on the receiving end of online scams, phishing attacks, hacking of social networking profiles and credit card fraud. Seven percent of adults have even encountered sexual predators online.
Parts of the document read like a bad undergrad assignment, with Norton reporting the "Top 10 emotional reactions to cybercrime" -
58% Angry
51% Annoyed
40% Cheated
38% Upset
38% Frustrated
36% Violated
30% Disgusted
30% Distrustful
29% Fearful/Worried
26% Helpless
Stunning, isn't it. Is the difference between 'fearful' and 'distrustful' significant? Are the 58% angry the same cohort as the 51% annoyed? the report is silent on what questions were asked and how the responses were parsed, instead relying on all-caps scare headlines.

Other revelations include -


Our study indicates that nearly half of all people globally are happy to tell online lies about their personal details, including their name, age, financial and relationship status; their appearance and even their nationality. And a third of all adults have assumed false identities online – from a false name through to a totally fictitious identity.

33% of adults have used a fake online identity. 45% of adults have lied about personal details

Germans are the best at faking it: more than half have adopted a fake online identity or lied about personal details online (53% and 51% respectively). More than half of Chinese, Brazilian and Indian adults admit to lying about personal information online (58%, 56% and 55% respectively).

Around four in 10 Italians, Brazilians and New Zealanders have also used false online identities (41%, 41% and 38% respectively).

But people in the UK are reluctant to follow suit — they come out as the least likely to use a false online identity (18%) or lie about personal information (33%).
What's the punchline? You guessed it: "Take Back Your Internet From Cybercriminals ... The Right Security Can Keep Them Away".
Victims the world over need to start taking a stand against cybercrime. Combining common sense with the right computer software makes a massive difference to fighting cybercrime.

It's time to:
• stop being frozen by fear and turn embarrassment into empowerment
• report all incidents to the authorities so the true picture of cybercrime emerges
• support the global Internet community by taking individual actions.
The safer you are, the safer others can be.

Everyone can contribute. Common sense is free, but free security or just antivirus software is not enough. Cybercriminals are always looking to get around security software, so the more comprehensive your security suite, the better. The right software keeps them away.
Who'll help you? Norton, that's who -
Don't Get Angry, Get Norton

Cybercrime makes victims feel just as angry and upset as crime in the physical world and yet people are not taking adequate precautions. Over half of online adults have experienced computer viruses or malware, which can be easily prevented by installing a full software security suite.
The accompanying 'data sheet' for Australia is peppered with the usual factoids, eg -
Cybercrime is ... bigger than the global black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined ($288bn) and approaching the value of all global drug trafficking ($411bn).

At $388bn, cybercrime is more than 100 times the annual expenditure of UNICEF ($3.65 billion)
It's presumably also bigger than the annual Australian spending on kitty litter and canned dog food or toilet paper, although those stats aren't quite as exciting and don't elicit comment from what the sheet characterises as a "Youthologist". In my next career I plan to promote myself as a Dogolist and release breathless media releases announcing that the number of soy decaf lattes consumed in Redfern is unrelated to global warming or to the number of times I've been befriended by a bull terrier - statistics, yes, but not necessarily meaningful and not necessarily independently verified.

The study does not, with apologies to the solution vendors, nail down the true cost of cybercrime in an authoritative way. It does not raise new "questions about people’s own online ethics and behavior"; those questions have been explored during the past two decades. It does pose questions about the ethics of such marketing and about the willingness of governments, academics and journalists to disseminate problematical data.

Rather than being afraid - and oh so very very agog - it would be better to be sceptical, nuanced and informed.