Is the Internet Getting Safer?

Category: Security

About 30 per cent of Americans say they sometimes avoid using the Internet for fear of falling victims to identity thieves, scams, computer viruses, and other dangers lurking online. Are they right to be afraid, or has the Internet become safer over time? It's hard to say, but here are some stats to consider, and some tips for staying safe...

How Safe is The Internet?

Phishing and other nefarious methods of collecting credit card and bank account information have not stopped, but it seems at least the bottom has fallen out of the market. According to researchers at, "Not long ago, a valid set of credit card credentials was worth $12 - $15. Today, the values have plummeted to just 20 cents per record. Malicious hackers are moving to other types of harvestable data to improve their margins…" That's good news for consumers; it's safer to spend money online now.

On the other hand, reports of Internet crimes rose 22 per cent in 2009, according to the latest figures from the National Internet Crime Complaint Center. Whether that increase reflects an actual rise in crimes is unclear. It could reflect better awareness of the NICCC by consumers and their willingness to report crimes.

The Center received over 336,000 complaints representing alleged losses of nearly $560 million in 2009. However, the percentage of complaints referred to law enforcement agencies actually declined in the same year, suggesting that a higher percentage of complaints may have been unfounded.
Safer Internet
Losses due to identity theft plummeted a dramatic 28 per cent nationwide in 2010, according to an annual survey by Javelin Strategy & Research. The report attributes this welcome news to better efforts by financial institutions to verify and protect customers' credentials; greater awareness of identity theft methods on the part of consumers; improved law enforcement; and consumers' increased use of account monitoring tools. The poor economy may also be making identity theft unprofitable, forcing hackers to seek greener pastures. What's the point in stealing the identity of someone whose credit is trashed?

Other Attack Vectors

Medical identity theft is a new wrinkle that consumers must worry about. In this scam, someone steals your medical insurance credentials and sells them to someone who needs treatment. When your insurer denies the bogus claim, guess who gets stuck with the bill? Scammers also use stolen insurance credentials to buy prescription drugs, which can lead to trouble with law enforcement. Finally, if your insurance credentials are used by someone else your premiums may go up or your coverage may be cancelled. So be careful with your insurance credentials too, both online and in the real world.

The latest McAfee Threat Report claims a "marked increase in malware sophistication and targeting as well as a continued increase in the overall volume". On the positive side, McAfee reports a signifcant decrease in the amount of spam being sent, but spam still makes up 80 percent of all email.

Security analysts predict that hackers will step up their activities on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Be vigilant on social networking sites, make sure your "friends" are really people you personally know, tighten your privacy settings and limit your use of apps. Attacks on mobile devices are also increasing. See my related articles Facebook Privacy Problems and Securing Your Smartphone.

Whether any of these things happens to you is partly a matter of chance, and partly a function of your own vigilance. You should protect yourself by keeping malware and safe-surfing tools in place and up to date. Think before you click. And above all, never let greed overcome your common sense.

Do you have something to say about staying safe online? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Is the Internet Getting Safer?"

Posted by:

07 Apr 2011

Virus warning this happened to me last week. Have often come acoss advert for Twinky, make a caroon of yourself free. This time I clicked on it. Firefox add on Web Of Trust pre warned me, so I was ready. Twinky set off the Avast anti virus sirens and I got off the site pronto! It contains a trojan. Avast anti virus is a product with which I am WELL SATISFIED. It was Bob who put me onto Avast, one of the many big favours he has done me, possibly his greatest gift.

Posted by:

c alpha
08 Apr 2011

YES. Avast has been a great antivirus so far which now also includes an anti-spyware engine and Bob Rankin has been (and will remain) a great adviser. I recommend using virtual keyboards or trustworthy password managers when entering user names and passwords online. I think password managers are more comprehensive. Once, I tried the Windows 7 virtual keyboard and couldn't log in because it translated one of my mouse clicks into a wrong keyboard character.

Posted by:

cleotis johnson
27 May 2013

The most important thing to me i have read in this article is never open an email if u dont know who the sender is and never visit a strange website.

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