%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo% Not protecting yourself online is so irresponsible that it could damage the entire UK economy in the long term as our ideas are stolen and taken elsewhere, according to security experts discussing a new report on cybercrime.
The report, which looks at combating criminals who use the web to steal from others, says that cybercrime is now such big business that it is worth more than some nations.
Cybercrime as a business would be ranked 27th in the world based on revenue, and the crime is currently costing the world more than 400 billion US dollars (£238bn) a year, equal to more than 0.5% of the world's total gross domestic product (GDP).
Security experts, including from EU law enforcement agency Europol and Nato, have been discussing the report, which was commissioned by online security experts McAfee, and what more needs to be done to stop the increasing amount of web attacks. They say the big problem remains a lack of understanding among the public about different threats that exist.
Raj Samani, the chief technical officer of McAfee in Europe and a special adviser to Europol, said: "I've got young children, and I know that I can't be there every time they cross the road. What I can do is teach them the dangers of crossing the road and hope that they can protect themselves. Technology does play a part, but the user plays a part as well.
"Last year I wrote a piece for a newspaper and I wrote about how I went to a shopping centre, and there were people giving away chocolate in exchange for your personal data. The queue was 40 people deep. I said 'why are you giving up your data for a piece of chocolate? Do you not realise it has more value?'
"It's not just the technology, it's understanding the value of the data you have, it's making sure that you monitor what your children do online."
Mr Samani revealed as part of the report that there were 20 to 30 cybercrime groups that were operating on a "nation-state level", meaning that they are working on an industrial scale, and overcome almost any sort of web defence they face.
"We want the economy to grow, and it's being held back by cybercrime, and actually if you're not taking measures to protect yourself you're contributing to our economy not growing. If you're not taking important measures you're contributing to criminals, and I mean nasty criminals, making money off you. Not taking action is resulting in people losing their jobs," he said.
"Ideas are the currency of the digital age and our ideas are being stolen. Do you want the next Facebook to be out of London and Silicon Roundabout? It won't be if we don't protect our data because they'll steal it and run it somewhere else.
"This is important: it's the future of economic growth in this country. It's so important that people understand. We're not talking about viruses, we're talking about protecting yourself and preserving your livelihood."
Operation Tovar, which disrupted the viruses that led to the National Crime Agency issuing a two-week alert last week, has been highlighted as an example of the sort of global collaboration that needs to occur more often, and be as widely reported in order to help users better understand the threat, and the value of their data.
Paul Gillen, from Europol, said that this operation, which involved officers from the US, the UK and around the world, was the perfect example of the collaboration that is needed to take on cyber criminals.
"No single law enforcement agency can get an instant result on their own. We have to work in partnerships and Operation Tovar was a great example of this with the pooling of resources and ideas.
This is not the end of the war however. The war goes on," he said.
The report found that more than 200,000 jobs had been lost as a result of cybercrime - through reputation damage or loss of assets. The news comes in the wake of continued efforts to improve web security before the "two-week threat" elapses, and two viruses that have infected thousands of computers are active again.
The biggest scams of 2013
Online security 'vital for economy'
First Direct found that the most common type of fraud was the 'fake email', which makes up 53% of all scams. This is also known as phishing, and involves the fraudsters contacting you, requesting personal information like passwords and PINs.
They use all kinds of methods to persuade you to reveal your details: from pretending to be your bank, to pretending to be the taxman. Earlier this year HMRC warned people to watch out for scam emails promising tax credit refunds in return for account details - timed to coincide with a major advertising campaign to remind people to renew their tax credits.
This is an old and established scam, but is the second most prevalent in the UK this year. It involves someone getting in contact with a sob story, and asking for a sum of money in return for paying you a larger sum. If you pay up you may get requests for more cash but you will never receive a payout.
This year the horrible twist on the scam was that the gangs pretended to be a victim of the war in Syria, in desperate need of money and able to pay you from money he has hidden overseas, once you give him enough money to escape the country.
This is a new take on phishing, which Financial Fraud Action warned about in August. They said victims receive a cold call asking for personal or financial information. Some 39% of all people targeted by these calls said they found it difficult to tell if the person was genuinely from their bank or whether it was a scam. First Direct says this is the third most prevalent type of scam.
Duplicating your bank cards made up 14% of fraud this year. Old-fashioned card scams are actually on the rise this year. The experts say that the introduction of chip and PIN means 'crude scams' are back in vogue, where criminals distract people in shops and bars, or shoulder surf at cash machines and then steal customers' cards without them noticing.
These also make up 14% of all scams. You receive an email telling you that you have won a lottery. All you have to do is get in touch with the 'claims agent' who you'll need to pay a 'processing fee' or a 'transfer charge' to. These 'agents' are all criminals, who will just take your money and run.
We warned in November of a boom in phoney research calls. Boiler room operatives will call pretending to be university researchers looking into investor confidence. In fact, they are just trying to find out how best to exploit you: asking how much cash you have, your attitude to risk, and determining whether an appeal to greed would work.
Back in May we warned that you could receive a telephone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from Microsoft. The scammers were using a variety of techniques to extract money from their victims. These included infecting computers with malware and charging to remove it, charging people a fortune for help they didn't want or need, or even just asking for their credit card details.
This is not a new type of scam. For years now different types of Trojan viruses have been embedded in various web pages and links. If you click on the page or link you're taken to malicious websites, which install a virus. The virus then quietly sits on your computer, stealing passwords and account details until it has enough details to empty your bank accounts.
This scam took two very popular forms this year. The first was a link sent in an email pretending to be from Facebook, and inviting you to click the link. When you did, it would install the virus and then send the link to your Facebook friends.
The other form was a page with a fake YouTube video in the background, which claimed to show Rita Ora's famous wardrobe malfunction. However, the site prompts you to enter your Facebook details, so you can see the video and 'personalise your experience'. The criminals then have access to your Facebook account.
As the jobs market continues to be tight, the job offer scam is still a real risk. Financial Fraud Action issued a warning about fake online job offers, that could turn innocent job hunters into unwitting money launderers.
The jobs offered are called things like "payment processing agents" or "administration assistants". They involve the payment of the proceeds of crimes into your bank account. You then pay the cash into an overseas account, effectively hiding the money and laundering it for criminals. In return you receive a share of the money. This is a criminal act.
These reached a peak this year after One Direction collected their Brit award (pictured) and announced a World Tour - and demand for the tickets exploded. The scammers set up fake sites offering tickets to sold-out gigs. Desperate fans trawling the net would stumble across them and take a risk. They handed over hundreds of pounds, the criminals took the money, shut the website, and ran.