Hackers stalk Facebook to harvest cash secrets
Britain faces a new threat from the sharp increase in cyber-crime with sophisticated hackers leaving the government far behind in its attempts to catch them, according to the world’s leading expert in online security.
Mikko Hyppönen, who regularly works with Scotland Yard, the FBI, the US National Security Agency and Interpol, said popular networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin were now prime targets for criminals.
“It’s happening all over the world,” said Hyppönen, who refuses to use Facebook. “These guys steal an individual’s profile, then email everyone in their contacts with a link and a subject heading like ‘check this out’. You trust the email because it’s from your friend. So you click on the link and before you know it all your security information has been stolen. I don’t use Facebook because I know who’s watching and I don’t want these guys looking at pictures of me and my family. People think no one phishing will be able to make money from Facebook, but cyber-criminals can. This is only the beginning. You will see this happening more and more.”
Hyppönen spoke to the Observer at a two-day online security conference in Helsinki, where he works as chief research officer at the security firm F-Secure. “The biggest change of the last 20 years has been the change in the enemy,” he said. “In the vast majority of these cases, we have no idea where they are coming from. But when we do and we catch the criminals, their sentence is so light the mind boggles.” Hyppönen cites the example of a 21-year-old Finnish cyber-criminal nicknamed Oyvasi who was part of an online gang with operations in the UK, Saudia Arabia and Canada. Other members of the gang have also been convicted with more cases continuing. Oyvasi was given 108 hours’ community service for his offences. “They didn’t even take his computer, just his hard drive,” said Hyppönen, who believes cyber-crime is not yet considered as serious as “real” crime.
“These guys steal personal financial data and sell it to the highest bidder. It’s like robbing a bank, but why rob a bank now when you can steal huge amounts of money from the comfort of your own home in another continent?”
Hyppönen has said that he is baffled by the way the world conducts online banking with common domain names ending in .com or .uk giving criminals a helping hand in setting up high-quality rogue websites, which are popping up every day.
“They may look like the real thing, but they’re operated by criminals. They are hosted on websites with misleading names that read like a real bank’s web address, but the domains are registered for as little as £3 with fake contact information.” Impostors then bombard consumers with “phishing” emails, luring them to these sites, where their financial information is stolen.
Hyppönen has called for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which creates top-level domains, to create a new, secure domain, with a £30 000 price tag making it prohibitively expensive to most copycats.
“Things are going to get worse before they get better,” said Hyppönen, “but we are not giving up the fight”. - guardian.co.uk