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US financial losses from cyber crime in 2002 were down 56 per cent on 2001, according to the Computer Security Institute's (CSI) eighth annual Computer Crime and Security Survey.

Overall financial losses from 530 survey respondents to the survey this year totalled $202 million, significantly down from 503 respondents reporting $456 million losses last year.

However the number of significant incidents remained roughly the same as last year, despite the drop in costs.

As in prior years, theft of proprietary information caused the greatest financial loss ($70 million was lost, survey participants say, with the average reported loss being approximately $2.7 million).

But in a shift from previous years, the second-most expensive computer crime among survey respondents was denial of service. This caused an estimated loss of $65.6 million - up 250 percent from last year's losses of $18.4 million.

By contrast, losses reported for financial fraud were drastically lower, at $9,171,400, compared to nearly $116 million reported in the survey last year.

Before we read too much into such figures it's worth noting that although three in four of the organisations acknowledged financial loss, only 47 per cent could quantity them. So the survey is useful for broad trends only.

According to the CSI, the results show that computer crime threats to large corporations and government agencies come from both inside and outside their electronic perimeters, confirming a trend in previous years.

Forty-five per cent of respondents detected unauthorised access by insiders. But for the fourth year in a row, more respondents (78 percent) cited their Internet connection as a frequent point of attack than cited their internal systems as a frequent point of attack (36 percent).

The survey findings confirm that the threat from computer crime and other information security breaches is unabated, the CSI concludes.

The Computer Crime and Security Survey is conducted by CSI with the participation of the San Francisco Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Computer Intrusion Squad. The aim of survey is to raise security awareness, as well as to determine the scope of computer crime in the US.

The complete survey is published here. ®

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