Cyber-paramedics fight Internet infections

What kind of abuse are we really talking about? What do we mean by abuse in connection with today's Internet? And how can we address it? Dictionary definitions can't give today's users the guidance they need.

As it is now used, the term "abuse" refers to a broad spectrum of threats on the Internet. If you've read about such threats, you might well suppose they only affect other people. They'll never get to you. In reality, the probabilities are very different. This is because computer viruses, data abuse, and organized, mafia-like crime are now virtually everywhere in cyberspace. Experts put the annual damages from cybercrime in the hundreds of billions of euros/dollars. This means that cybercrime, sadly, now generates more revenue than any other type of crime, including even the drug trade, which now ranks second.

The threats keep mounting

Cybercrime victims often suffer major financial losses, while cyber criminals run little risk of capture and rarely incur any penalties. Needless to say, we can't afford to simply resign ourselves to these threats. And there is some good news, which is that virus scanners, firewalls, automatic updates of operating systems and user software do protect us against most of the threats from the Net. It is a constant race like the one between the hare and the tortoise. With an estimated 400,000 new viruses flooding the network every day, makers of virus scanners are nearing the limits of their ability to protect.

Cooperation is important

This makes cooperation, i.e., the sharing of experience, expertise and commitment, an ever-more important factor in network protection. Deutsche Telekom is aware that many of its customers encounter cyberattacks, that many of its customers' computers have malware infections and that such infected computers are getting used, thousands of times per year, for criminal actions. Most of the so-affected customers are completely unaware of what is going on.

Help for self-help

Deutsche Telekom has set up a team called the Telekom Security Team that follows up on indications of Internet abuse and informs affected customers. The notifications it sends to customers affected, for example, describe the type of malware concerned and explain how to remove it. They help customers help themselves, with instructions and "cyber vaccinations." Users who "vaccinate" their computers, like patients who get their real-world flu shots, protect both themselves and help make the Internet safer for everyone. As more and more computers get "clean," fewer machines are left that cyber criminals can control remotely, for their own abusive purposes.