- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2010

The Washington area, home to some of the most tech-savvy people on the planet, is the nation’s third-riskiest cybercrime city, trailing Boston and Seattle, according to a survey released Monday morning by Norton from Symantec and independent research firm Sperlings BestPlaces.

Cybercrime is “a threat that affects one in five online shoppers and costs Americans $560 million in 2009 due to online fraud,” the firm claimed, citing data from Consumer Reports and the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

“What Norton looked at was not only the level of cybercrime launched against cities but also the types of behaviors” computer users engage in, said Marian Merritt, an Internet safety advocate with Norton software maker Symantec Corp., based in Culver City, Calif. Ms. Merritt said such factors included “average [consumer] spending on high tech, the availability of wireless hotspots [and] broadband and known risky online behaviors.”

Speaking from a wireless hotspot in Seattle, ranked as the No. 1 riskiest city for cybercrime, she added, “The more you live your life on the Internet, the more likely you are to be attacked.”

A news release from the firm added that Boston and Washington “experience a very high level of cybercrime, perhaps due in part to their large number of WiFi hotspots,” or public access points where users log onto the Internet and where fraudsters can intercept wireless traffic.

To develop these rankings, researchers at Sperlings BestPlaces analyzed data for each city, including the number of cyberattacks and potential infections, using data provided by Symantec Security Response, as well as the spending and wireless access levels.

An obvious preventative measure is to use the latest in Internet security software and up-to-date versions of your computer’s operating system and Internet Web browser, Ms. Merritt said, but it’s also wise to stop and think where you’re doing certain online activities. And, no, the Metro isn’t where users should plan to do their online income tax preparation, she agreed.

“Be savvy about online transactions — do them at home on a network you can trust,” Ms. Merritt said. Also, “remove peer-to-peer file sharing software. Make it hard for a [computer] criminal. Store your financial information on a thumb drive or a separate hard drive off of the computer.”

Symantec has more information on the study available online at www.NortonRiskiestOnlineCities.com.

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