Criminals have always used technology to help them commit crime, says David Perry, global director of education at antivirus software company Trend Micro.
Such aids started with stirrups, moved on to cars and machine guns, railways and air transport — these are all examples of technology that has worked in favour of criminals, says Perry.
A recognised expert on computer-virus prevention, Perry visited Auckland in December for the AVAR (Association of Antivirus Asia Researchers) conference.
During the cowboy era, criminals could only steal as much as their horses could carry — and they could only travel as far their horses could carry them in one day, he says. But once cars became common crooks could steal more and they could carry machine guns, enabling them to get away from police. The telegraph and telephone have also been used extensively for scams and fraud. Now the computer and the internet have become lucrative ground for criminals, he says.
“Criminal behaviour is sociology,” says Perry. “The problem is not in technology — it is in us.”
Therefore, cyber crime will never go away, says Perry. But he does think it will eventually be beaten back to reasonable levels.
“We have to stop the internet from being untrustworthy and toxic,” he says. “But [to do that] I believe we’ll have to tear down the whole thing and rebuild it,” he says.
There has been an ethical change in malware, says Perry. Nowadays, most of it is written for profit and the main targets are banks, financial institutions, websites such as eBay and PayPal, and end-users.
“We always pick on end-users,” he says, “But [they] need more education.”
In order to fight cyber crime, users must be “healthily sceptical” when using the internet, he says. Other factors that could help stop cyber-crime growth include more secure hardware and software, better products from security vendors and better cyber laws, says Perry.
He quotes famous US bank robber William “Willie” Sutton (1901-1980), who answered the question why he robbed banks by saying, “Because that’s where the money is”. And, for exactly the same reason, criminals now go to the internet today, says Perry.