2008 has been a bumper year for cyber criminals, who have raked in more cash than ever before, according to security firm F-Secure.
The company's annual data security wrap-up report said that the level of malware detections tripled over the year to equal the total amount of malware accumulated over the previous 21 years.
Criminal activity for financial gain has remained the driver for this increase, and most malware is being produced by highly organised criminal gangs using increasingly sophisticated techniques.
2008 has also seen an increase in botnet activity around the world, giving cyber criminals access to vast amounts of computing power to distribute spam and malware as well as launch targeted denial-of-service attacks.
Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer at F-Secure, warned that online crime is now more prevalent and more professional than ever before, and put the blame on the inability of national and international authorities to catch, prosecute and sentence these criminals.
"The bottom line is that too few of the perpetrators of internet crime are either caught or punished," he said. "We believe that the result of no action being taken sends the wrong message to these criminals that internet crime is an easy way to make a lot of money and they will never be caught or punished."
Hyppönen is calling for the establishment of Internetpol to tackle online crime, an initiative that has received great interest and support internationally.
However, although online crime is still a major challenge, the F-Secure report highlighted some notable successes by agencies trying to catch and convict criminals over the course of the year.
These included an FBI operation to close down Dark Market, which acted as an online marketplace for stolen credit card details and illegal internet services, and a campaign that led to the demise of botnet host McColo resulting in a temporary fall in worldwide spam levels.
Microsoft, meanwhile, filed a number of lawsuits against the purveyors of rogue security applications who were attempting to scam users into buying worthless products.
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