BERLIN - Internet users around the world send an estimated 60 billion
e-mails every day and many of these are spam or scam attempts,
business leaders said recently.
Deutsche Telekom Chief Executive Kai-Uwe Ricke said cyber criminals
were growing more active and sophisticated, and the vast e-mail
traffic meant industry, government and Internet users had to be
vigilant and work together.
"This figure was new for me as well; worldwide there are around 60
billion e-mails sent every day," Telekom Chief Executive Kai-Uwe Ricke
told an Internet security conference.
"A large percent of it -- in excess of 80 percent is spam," Microsoft
CEO Steve Ballmer added.
German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned of the recent growth
in "phishing"; fishing for passwords, often via fake e-mails that
especially target online banking.
"In 2005, the attempts at phishing (globally) dramatically increased, by
300 percent compared with the previous year," he said. "According to
international estimates, phishing is successful with up to 5 percent of
all Internet users. Its running quite high again in 2006."
He said this success rate caused inestimable economic damage
worldwide. Internet security firm Symantec Corp registered some 8
million phishing attempts last year.
Germany's BKA federal crime office said this month it had shut a
"phishing" ring of Germans and Lithuanians, sparing online banking
customers millions of euros of potential losses.
The BKA said the phishing ring obtained online banking customers' user
names and passwords and other sensitive data from their victims'
computers by means of a "Trojan horse", a self-circulating, virus-like
program that spreads by e-mail and sends data from the infiltrated
computer back to the "phisher".
Schaeuble said many Germans used no form of Internet protection,
exposing themselves needlessly to phishing and other criminal attempts
to infiltrate their computers.
"One out of every four Germans is without anti-virus protection and more
than half had no firewalls," he said.
Ballmer said this situation was probably worse in the United States, but
there were signs Internet users were becoming better educated about
protecting themselves from cyber criminals. (MSNBC.com is a Microsoft --
NBC joint venture.)
He said it was important for software developers like Microsoft to
make their products as secure as possible. But he warned that improved
security would require the combined efforts of authorities, the
industry and users themselves.
"The hackers out there are really are smart and getting smarter. We all
have to run in front of them," Ballmer said.
To improve U.S. cyber security, Ballmer said Microsoft would launch an
initiative next month in the United States modeled on a German program,
"Germany Safe on the Net", set up a year ago by Telekom, Microsoft, the
government and Internet-related firms to improve Internet safety.
Copyright Reuters 2006.
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I can say that in this little corner of
the world -- i.e. telecom -- the spam continues to roll in, usually
hundreds of such items daily. Sometimes, the ratio of spam/scam to
legitimate email here is in excess of 95 percent. PAT]