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Security from A to Z: Kid's game?

Once the domain of teenagers, hacking is now being used by organized crime. Part of a series on hot security topics.

Computer misuse was once seen as the domain of disenchanted teenagers, who caused havoc from the darkness of their bedrooms. Many of the earliest instances of malicious software were traced back to virus writers in their late teens.

But the rise of the Internet and big business's reliance upon it, has facilitated a paradigm shift: Computer crime has mushroomed from the act of "angry young men" to become a fast-growing branch of international organized crime.

The growth and popularity of e-commerce and online banking has further fuelled the cybercrime boom, as traditional fraudsters take their tricks online--and learn a few new ones.

Last year, columnist Simon Moores of sister site described how the Internet has given organized crime a profit margin that legitimate business can never expect to equal. He said hundreds of billions of dollars are hidden in offshore accounts. "This money fuels other criminal ventures, from pedophile pornography to drugs trafficking," he claimed.

The promise of gain has turned computer misuse from child's play into organized global crime, observers say.

Natasha Lomas reported for in London.