Are You Ready for a Fight?

By Eileen Feretic  |  Posted Wednesday, July 15, 2009 16:07 PM

By Eileen Feretic

Enterprises today are facing cyber-criminals that are far more clever and aggressive than yesterday's scammers and hackers. That means serious trouble for law-abiding individuals and organizations.

"The technical innovation and capabilities of online criminals are remarkable," according to Cisco's 2009 Midyear Security Report. To follow up on that report, I spoke with Patrick Peterson, Cisco fellow and chief security researcher. Unfortunately, he had discouraging news: "Cyber-criminals are becoming sophisticated in the ways of business and are acquiring our best practices. They are using Harvard Business School techniques."

Cyber-criminals and Harvard Business School techniques! Now that's an unsettling combination. And the examples Peterson cited during our call are truly unnerving.

For example, he told me that many cyber-criminals are acquiring "customers" (actually, victims) by jumping on news events. He explained that after Michael Jackson's death, scammers offered a "unique video" of Jackson that could be downloaded for free. But hapless fans ended up downloading a botnet.

Another growing threat, according Peterson, involves mobile phones. In this scenario, criminals send a text message to individuals who belong to a small bank or credit union. The message says there is a security issue on their account and urges them to call a provided phone number. People who call the number unwittingly hand over their personal information to thieves, causing major problems for themselves and their financial institutions.

Cyber-criminals also have adopted another business best practice: partnering. According to the Cisco report: " 'Bad guys' are aggressively collaborating, selling each other their wares, and developing expertise in specific tactics and technologies." In other words, they're ganging up on us.

Clearly, the security landscape isn't going to get better any time soon. The enemy keeps getting smarter and more aggressive, so we have to fight back with all the weapons at our disposal.

This is a battle we can't afford to lose.