RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Global cybercrime generated a higher turnover than drug trafficking in 2004 and is set to grow even further with the wider use of technology in developing countries, a top expert said on Monday.
No country is immune from cybercrime, which includes corporate espionage, child pornography, stock manipulation, extortion and piracy, said Valerie McNiven, who advises the U.S. Treasury on cybercrime.
"Last year was the first year that proceeds from cybercrime were greater than proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs, and that was, I believe, over $105 billion," McNiven told Reuters. "Cybercrime is moving at such a high speed that law enforcement cannot catch up with it."
For example, Web sites used by fraudsters for "phishing" — the practice of tricking computer users into revealing their bank details and other personal data — only stayed on the Internet for a maximum of 48 hours, she said.
Asked if there was evidence of links between the funding of terrorism and cybercrime, McNiven said: "There is evidence of links between them. But what's more important is our refusal or failure to create secure systems, we can do it but it's an issue of costs."
McNiven, a former e-finance and e-security specialist for the World Bank, was speaking in Riyadh on the sidelines of a conference on information security in the banking sector.
Developing countries which lack the virtual financial systems available elsewhere are easier prey for cybercrime perpetrators, who are often idle youths looking for quick gain.
"When you have identity thefts or corruption and manipulation of information there [developing countries], it becomes almost more important because ... their systems start getting compromised from the get-go," she said.
"Another area that begins to expand is human trafficking and pornography because both of these become so much available once you have a communication ability," McNiven said.