Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tech | Cyber crime: The issue that defined 2005

Typically, at the end of every year, we take a look at some of the trends in information technology that shaped the outgoing year and look ahead to what may be the trends shaping the upcoming one.

So as not to go on about the usual and expected developments we witnessed in 2005, like new, better or cheaper hardware and software products, winners and losers in the ICT market and so on; let's just take one key issue, with its subsets, which attracted the most substantial attention, media exposure and contributed the most to people's conversations in 2005. Then, we'll take a look at how that issue could evolve in 2006.

The issue of cyber crime would have to top anyone's list in 2005. It’s been another worm/hacking ravaged year, piercing more holes in Windows and every other software application; but more so. The big problem is that there's no end in sight to insecure computing, no matter what so-called experts claim.

Phishing and Pharming became common practices, both of which 'cultivate' email spam lists to trick users into revealing personal or financial information, which would then be used to illegally profit from people's gullibility. In other words, scammers had a field day on the Internet in 2005.

These new techniques were tied into the more classic forms of cybercrime, viruses and hacking, as worms would enter systems to harvest email address, which would then be used for phishing or pharming.

Hackers would also get in on the act, focusing on stealing email addresses to popular domains, like,, - would you believe- then sending emails to millions of users all over the world, making claims and trying to profit!

It all got very messy and embarassing, and emotions ran high amoung users who lashed out at software giant Mircosoft regarding its inability to produce secure operating systems and software. Microsoft tamely responded producing patches and updates on a monthly, and sometimes weekly, basis. The effectiveness, and uptake, of these patches was limited.

Which brings us, neatly, to the main launch everyone is looking forward to in 2006: Windows Vista, which is the first OS launch from Microsoft since Windows XP around five years ago. Will it solve security problems? Or, at least, will it minimize the dangers?

Expect massive hype to accompany the launch, and a certain degree of 'wait and see' among both home and business users, so rest assured it will gradually replace XP in a process that will take years, not months.

Apparently, to this day, millions of users around the world still have Windows 98 running on their PCs. Imagine that!In anycase, it is now generally accepted that virus writers, hackers, phishers and all kinds of digital scammers will find ways around or into suppossedly secured systems and software. It is a never-ending race between software companies and intruders.

Here’s a safe prediction for you: This mess will continue into 2006.

Happy New Year? Yes, of course. There’s more to life than computing. Right? Hope you have a good one.


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