Germany warns of 'catastrophic' state of Web security
A new study presented at the CeBIT trade fair found that Web crime and sabotage were on a steep climb even as consumers grew smarter about security.
Hanover -- German authorities on Tuesday warned against the "catastrophic" state of security on the Internet, with growing armies of viruses, worms and Trojan horses unleashed by ever savvier criminals.
A study presented by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) at the world's biggest high-tech fair, the CeBIT, found that Web crime and sabotage were on a steep climb even as consumers grew smarter about security.
"The situation is serious -- it is even more catastrophic than we feared," BSI division chief Hartmut Isselhorst told reporters.
"We are all being attacked. As soon as we go online we become the target of attacks."
The BSI has measured a marked increase in "spam" mail packed with unsolicited advertising and dangerous viruses.
Hackers can also exploit security breaches on popular web sites, allowing viruses, worms and Trojan horses -- most recently with built-in update functions -- to work their way into the hard drives of unsuspecting users.
Isselhorst said such developments made protecting consumers and businesses a "constant battle", as international criminal networks work together to programme new attack software and launder cash gains from hacking.
A poll by high-tech lobby group BITKOM found that computer users were often shockingly negligent in protecting themselves, with 19 percent saying they had not installed an anti-virus programme and 45 percent doing without firewalls to prevent unauthorised access.
However Internet users in Europe's biggest economy prove relatively skittish when it comes to e-commerce.
More than one in four surfers declined to shop online because of security concerns, and nearly one in five refused to book travel or buy tickets on the web, the survey of 1,002 Germans showed.
Nearly one-third said they had suffered financial losses online either due to viruses or problems with Internet auctions or banking.
Isselhorst also cautioned against an anything-goes attitude toward sharing data such as photographs or addresses on social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace which cyber-criminals could easily access and exploit.