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
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
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
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
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?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.