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Cybercrime 'more lucrative' than drugs

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Global cybercrime turned over more money than drug trafficking last year, according to a US Treasury advisor. Valerie McNiven, an advisor to the US government on cybercrime, claimed1 that corporate espionage, child pornography, stock manipulation, phishing fraud and copyright offences cause more financial harm than the trade in illegal narcotics such as heroin and cocaine.

"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 $105bn," McNiven told Reuters. "Cybercrime is moving at such a high speed that law enforcement cannot catch up with it."

Wider penetration of technology in developing nations is likely to increase levels of fraud, McNiven predicts. She called for investment to be made in creating more secure systems capable of thwarting fraudsters who are "often idle youths looking for quick gain".

McNiven, a former finance security specialist at the World Bank, made her comments during a conference on information security in the banking sector in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week. ®

1Estimates about dollar losses from e-commerce fraud ($2.8bn in 2005, according to CyberSource, for example) tend to pale in comparison to industry estimates of losses due to software piracy and computer viruses, both of which we've had cause to question in the past (see here, here and here). Gauging the financial impact of the e-crime is fraught with difficulties so the figures McNiven cites ought to be treated with caution.

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