Oct 09, 2013

    Cybercrime takes bigger toll here

    FALLING prey to cybercrooks is getting more expensive for adult netizens here, costing each victim about US$1,158 (S$1,448) over the past year.

    This is a 75 per cent jump from the previous year's figure of about US$657.

    The amount lost over the last 12 months here is also much higher than the global average of US$298, according to a Norton report released yesterday.

    The spike in cost per victim comes even as the proportion of cybercrime victims fell to 37 per cent in the last 12 months, compared to 48 per cent a year before that.

    Cybercrime took a total toll of US$1 billion here over the last 12 months, as compared to US$944 million the year before.

    Mr Philip Routley, product marketing manager for consumer and small business at Symantec, maker of the Norton anti-virus software, explained that cybercriminals now engage in more sophisticated attacks that yield more money.

    These methods include ransomware, malicious software that masquerades as anti-virus software, then locks a user's computer files. The user is then forced to download another bogus anti-virus software program - for a price - to unlock the files.

    The report also found that, while many of the 500 adults polled here own mobile devices - with 79 per cent owning smartphones and 40 per cent, tablets - two in five do not take basic precautions to safeguard their data.

    These include failure to use passwords, install security software or back up files on their mobile devices - practices they would adhere to when using their computers, said Mr Routley.

    Mr Victor Huang, chief technology officer of IT firm Computer Guys, said that mobile devices are sold on the premise of convenience and that security tends to take a back seat.

    "As people save their passwords and credit-card information on their phones and tablets for easy input, these devices become keys to your identity and your money," said Mr Huang.

    While free basic security software is available for mobile devices, the survey found that only 28 per cent have them installed, while 63 per cent do not know they exist.

    Mr Chong Rong Hwa, senior malware researcher at FireEye, said this is due to the perception that such anti-virus software would slow down mobile devices' processing speed and drain their battery more quickly.

    Ms Joanne Teo, 23, a consulting analyst who was hit by two unauthorised credit-card deductions of about $50 each this year, said that securing her mobile devices is a "lingering thought, but it is never a concern".