Feeds

Feds square off with organized cyber crime

Those were the days

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

RSA 2005 Computer intruders are learning to play well with others, and that's bad news for the Internet, according to a panel of law enforcement officials and legal experts speaking at the RSA Conference in San Francisco last week.

Christopher Painter, deputy director of the Justice Department's computer crime section, spoke almost nostalgically of the days when hackers acted "primarily out of intellectual curiosity." Today, he says, cyber outlaws and serious fraud artists are increasingly working in concert, or are one and the same. "What we've seen recently is a coming together of these two groups," said Painter.

Ronald Plesco, counsel to the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance, a computer forensics organization established by the FBI and private industry, agreed, and pointed to the trend in recent years of spammers building networks of compromised computers to launder their fraudulent email offerings.

Tim Rosenberg, a research professor at the George Washington University, warned of "multinational groups of hackers backed by organized crime" and showing the sophistication of prohibition-era mobsters.

"This is not about little Jimmy Smith breaking into his ex-employer's website and selling information to competitors," he said. "What we're seeing is just sheer, monstrous" levels of crime."

Painter acknowledged that recreational hackers are still out there, but he believes they're a minority. He reads the future of cyber crime and investigation in the joint Secret Service and Justice Department "Operation Firewall" crackdown on Internet fraud rings last October, in which 19 men were indicted for allegedly trafficking in stolen identity information and documents, and stolen credit and debit card numbers.

At the center of Operation Firewall was an online forum called Shadowcrew, which served as the trading floor for an underground economy capable of providing a dizzying array of illicit products and services, from credit card numbers to details on consumers worthy of having their identities' stolen. "Individuals all over the world would work together to hack into systems, steal information and then sell information," said Painter. "[It was] a very, very highly structured, organized network."

Faced with that kind of organization, law enforcement agencies are turning to undercover operations, said Painter. To take down Shadowcrew, the Secret Service secretly busted a high level member of the group, turned him into an informant, and operated him undercover for more than a year, according to court records. "Law enforcement was essentially running that group at one point," said Painter.

Painter prosecuted Kevin Mitnick in the 1990s, and he still insists that, from the victim's point of view, old-fashioned recreational hackers are as bad as today's multi-disciplined cyber criminals. "But it was a simpler time," he admitted after the presentation. ®

Copyright © 2005, SecurityFocus logo

Related stories

RSA 2005: complete coverage
Online fraud could dent economies
T-Mobile hacker pleads guilty
T-Mobile hacker pleads guilty
Fraudsters expose 100,000 across US
Browser holes, hackers and rampaging botnets
Hackers at mercy of US judges
Cisco patches VoIP vuln

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.