Malicious hackers have come a long way from the computer geeks who would write viruses for relatively harmless kicks, a panel of security experts said this week.
The first hackers modeled themselves on characters from the novels of science fiction writer William Gibson, said David Perry, global director of education for Trend Micro, at the RSA Conference 2006 in San Jose.
"Before viruses existed in the real world, they existed in fiction. (Early hackers) had all modeled their characters on people from William Gibson novels," he said.
Now, however, are taking a considerable chunk of money from the pockets of U.S. consumers, Perry added.
"We've gotten to the point where – and this is a two-week old quote – the FBI said there are $67.2 billion lost to cybercrime every year," he said. "Now organized crime is making more money from internet crime than they are from drugs."
Alex Shipp, imagineer for MessageLabs, said targeted attacks on corporations could become very costly.
Botnet attacks claiming to be from large companies could cause firms to "lose their identities," he said.
"The IP address is what makes companies really valuable," he said.
Jeanette Jarvis, security systems project manager for Boeing, said hackers by no means respect international borders when staging attacks.
"We've seen specific attacks coming from China that are looking to get engineering data," she said.