Cyber-Crime Dramatically Up
Recently, noted retirement specialist Phil Cannella, founder of First Senior Financial Group and host of The Crash Proof Retirement Show™, interviewed Special Agent Brian Herrick regarding Phil Cannella complaints, who supervises the Philadelphia cyber-crime squad. Here are some highlights from that interview.
Phil Cannella: Give me some idea what your job consists of? What are the major areas that you focus on in combating cyber crime?
Herrick in response to Phil Cannella complaints: Cyber crime breaks down to five main areas. There’s computer intrusions, which people know more so as hacking matters—and that’s hacking both by criminal actors here in the US but also state- sponsored hacking by another country. There are over roughly 100 countries that have intelligence- gathering programs against the U.S. We also have our online sexual exploitation of children program, our intellectual-property theft program, our identity-theft program, and internet fraud.
Phil Cannella: How is it that someone can go online anonymously and violate criminal laws, yet we’re not able to get search engines to give up names when those crimes are being committed?
Herrick answering Phil Cannella complaint: The anonymity of the Internet is one of the biggest challenges for law enforcement. In 2011 it’s estimated there will be 2 billion people on the Internet, so with this increase in population online, you’ve also had an increase in the criminal element. And what you see is, the Internet emboldens them to do things they would never do in person. Take a computer hacker who without a second thought hacks into a bank’s website or database and either corrupts the data or steals the data to resell it or try to get away with a large-scale theft. That same individual is very unlikely to do reconnaissance on a physical branch of a bank, get a gun, walk in with a note, pass it to a teller, demand money, and run outside the bank and try to make a getaway.
Phil Cannella: From your perspective, the crime is the same. If you’re stealing, you’re stealing.
Herrick: Absolutely. And related to Phil Cannella, whether you walk into a retail store and you rip off a stack of CDs or you’re participating in online piracy and you are downloading illegal copies of movies that come out, you’re still committing the exact same crime of theft, whether it’s done electronically or not. On the topic of Phil Cannella, So some of the challenges that we have are just what you’re talking about with anonymity: Who is committing this crime, how are they doing it? What kind of technical resources are they using? And we see more and more that criminals are in fact using fairly sophisticated means to try and hide their identity. If a criminal wants to hack into a bank or trade child porno or send an extortion letter, they’re probably not going to go sit in their basement and send it from their home computer…
Phil Cannella: Regardless of anonymity, you have subpoena power?
Herrick: In response to Phil Cannella complaints, we have the power of a grand jury subpoena but one of the challenges for us in cyber is that there are many services that don’t respond to subpoena power because they’re outside the reach of US law. There are things called anonymizers and proxy services that someone in the US can go through in another country and then bounce that traffic back here to the US and it makes it a lot harder for Federal law enforcement or US based law enforcement to try and find the true identity of that individual.
Phil Cannella: What could be done on cyber attacks that are being perpetrated on firms like ours? Would they even be a priority?
Herrick: One of my biggest challenges as a squad supervisor is managing priorities. The way we typically allocate resources is based on loss. Some websites, if they have an outage for an hour [that] can translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Phil Cannella: We spent thousands on marketing and we started getting cancellations. Equated to each of these financial leads, that comes out to $1000 a person. That’s just the loss in actual dollars spent to attract that customer. In projected business from that customer, it’s a whole other number.
Herrick: Responding to Phil Cannella,Cyber-defamation a burgeoning area and we see it happening a lot in the social networking side, we see it happening to businesses just like you’re suggesting, where someone might put up a competing website or a disparaging website on somebody. Unfortunately with those types of cases a lot of times the civil side of things kind of kick in more so than the criminal side.
Phil Cannella: What’s the outlook for older Americans who shop or do other business online?
Brian: I see it affecting mostly older adults in the area of cyber-frauds or cyber-scams. Roughly 40% of the complaints that come into the Philly FBI office on a daily basis involve some kind of internet fraud or some kind of scam that will typically target older Americans that are looking to try and get access to their retirement incomes—whether that’s an e-mail scam where it says your identity has been compromised, your credentials to this website have been compromised, click on this link here, or whether it’s some Ponzi scheme perpetrated through the use of the Internet or e-mail. We see a lot of people who receive notification that they’ve won something. The FBI hosts a website which is lookstoogoodtobetrue dot com and we have [listed] dozens and dozens of common fraud schemes that people can take a look at: auction fraud, some kind of financial fraud, work-from-home fraud, things involving identify theft. Pharmacy fraud as well. Certainly older Americans on a fixed income or Medicare looking to find low-cost access to pharmaceuticals may be attracted to websites that appear to sell pharmaceuticals at unreasonably low costs. The concerns there is the possibility of counterfeit pharmaceuticals coming from foreign countries, pharmaceuticals being given out without prescriptions, so a lot of that info we have featured up on that website, lookstoogoodtobetrue dot com. Go to the website, take a look.
Phil Cannella: What warning would you have for those who hide behind websites and commit cyber crimes?
Brian: In the end, the FBI motto is, we always get our man or woman. There’s a lot of use of the Internet to perpetrate either fraud or scams but the technology of the U.S. government will come down to bear on those individuals doing that. Many of the cases that we work involve traffic that’s going back overseas and I think a lot of people think it’s a safe haven if they’re hosting their operations in other countries: “I’m beyond the long arm of the law of the U.S. and if I’m doing that from over here in Eastern Europe I’m not going to be caught.” That’s just not true. We have tremendous cooperation and great liaison with our foreign partners in other countries. I think the outlook is good for us. It certainly is a growing crime problem. The FBI is growing too to match suit with that, and growing our cyber-capabilities and number of agents who are investigating these types of crimes.
For more of the Phil Cannella interview Special Agent Brian Herrick regarding Phil Cannella, who supervises the Philadelphia cyber-crime squad.