Computer viruses no longer come from the US or Europe; the hottest hotbeds of hackerdom may be in China and Russia now, but even that will shift. Soon, the most dangerous internet criminals might hail from Mexico, India and Africa, says a new study. Shouldn't somebody call Nick Negroponte?
Security specialists at F-Secure have drawn up a report with three maps that create—perhaps unintentionally—a compelling narrative of the way malware reflects the changing economic situation around the globe.
Back in the day (1986 to 2003), computer viruses mainly came from developed, predominantly white regions, US, Europe and Australia, along with India. There were anomalies like the Philippines-originated "Love Bug," but by and large, it seemed computer viruses could be chalked up as a by-product of the technological success of the post-industrial world. The hackers themselves were effete, tea-sipping "hobbyists," out to perfect their skills—not steal millions.
Next came the pros from Eastern Europe, China and Brazil. For the past four or five years, it's been a full-on assault from the regions where high-level computer skills are plentiful, but legit employment opportunities like those found at Redmond, Mountain View or Cupertino are slim to none. Broadband roll-out and a border-free internet have given these guys plenty of opportunities for targeted attacks with cash money—okay, credit-card and bank-account info—as the deliberate end result.
In the future, though, new e-criminals will most likely operate out of regions that seem a bit more surprising, such as Mexico and Africa. Part of the reason is that internet usage is fast increasing in those areas, while the requisite IT job growth or technological-age legal system that naturally keep the ruffians in check are not developing as fast. Pour a little political discord on top of that, and you've got one hell of a haven for hackers.
India will also see a resurgence in criminal activity, mainly because the job opportunities will never keep up with the number of people being trained with high-level computer skills, in spite of the country's rapid growth.