In 2011, Australians lost a total of $4.8 billion to cybercriminals, according to a Norton cyber crime report released on Monday.
Some of the money was stolen from bank accounts overnight while most were spirited away in small amounts over time, with the account holder initially not aware of the theft.
With the huge amount involved, it boils down to $212 per Australian, Norton said.
Besides withdrawing cash from ATMs, the hackers are using the stolen money to stay in fancy hotels and purchase expensive vehicles. Security expert Brian Krebs said at higher risk of cyber theft are people who use Facebook, Myspace, blogs, online gaming or Internet dating sites since most of these sites require entry or retrieval of personal information.
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The money is usually stolen by first sending an e-mail to the account holder with a pdf file attachment which when opened sets in motion a malrus, a small programme that allows the hacker complete control over the computer. It records keystrokes which opens the key to harvesting of personal details.
Also at higher risk are clients of 40,000 small- and medium-sized businesses in Australian and New Zealand since these enterprises are large enough to process 20,000 e-commerce transactions yearly but too small to provide sufficient protection to their systems, according to credit card firm Visa.
Certain types of cybercrimes are linked with age groups. Those over 65 are often victimised by advance fee scams such as fake lottery wins, those in the age bracket 45 to 54 are often victims of dating scams and the 18 to 24 age group are online transaction scams because they frequently shop online.
Most banks, however, often reimburse the cybercrime victims of their lost money.
This article is copyrighted by IBTimes.com.au, the business news leader