Cybercrime: Threat increasingDate: October 24, 2005
Cyber threats fall into two distinct categories: threats affecting national security that emerged with Internet technology, such as cyber terrorism, foreign-based computer intrusions and cyber theft of sensitive data; and traditional criminal activity facilitated by computers and the Internet, such as theft of intellectual property, online sexual exploitation of children, and Internet fraud.
In both categories, cyber attacks, intrusions, illicit file sharing, and illegal use of cyber tools are the basic instruments used by perpetrators. Domestic and foreign terrorist organizations, foreign intelligence actors, and criminal enterprises are increasingly using encryption technology to secure their communications and to exercise command and control over operations and people without fear of surveillance. The Federal Bureau of Investigation must be able to identify and penetrate the command and control elements of these organizations and actors.
Recognizing the international aspects and national economic implications of cyber threats, the FBI created a Cyber Division at the headquarters level to manage and direct this developing program. The rapid evolution of computer technology, coupled with the creative techniques used by foreign intelligence actors, terrorists, and criminals, requires investigators and computer security professionals to have highly specialized computer-based skills. The FBI Cyber Program uses a centralized, coordinated strategy to support crucial counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal investigations whenever aggressive technical investigative assistance is required. The Cyber Program also targets major criminal violators with a cyber nexus.
The FBI must increase its capability to identify and neutralize enterprises and individuals who illegally access computer systems, spread malicious code, or support terrorist or state-sponsored computer operations. The Bureau must proactively investigate counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal investigative cyber related threats having the highest probability of threatening national security. To do so requires the FBI to constantly upgrade its skills and technology to meet the evolving threat.
The Organized Crime Threat
Organized criminal enterprises using the Internet for fraudulent activities present a significant and increasing criminal threat in the cyber arena. Typically, one or more components of the Internet is used to present fraudulent solicitations to prospective victims, conduct fraudulent transactions, or transmit the proceeds of fraud to financial institutions or others connected with the scheme.
This crime problem is international and many schemes originate in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe. E-commerce is growing in all sectors of the U.S. economy, and while most is business-to-business, the dollars associated with e-commerce retail sales are growing exponentially. When Internet users — whether they are businesses or consumers — are crippled by Internet fraud schemes, the viability of e-commerce is compromised, adversely impacting the national economy. FBI officials state that they will focus their efforts on dismantling enterprises engaged in significant levels of fraudulent activity, especially those that are national and transnational.
Intellectual Property Theft
Theft of intellectual property affects US competitiveness and economic viability. US copyright industries and derivative businesses account for more than $433 billion, or nearly six percent of the nation’s economy. Similarly, theft of trade secrets presents a serious economic and security threat.
Trade secrets represent some of the most valuable assets within the nation’s corporate community, as much as 85 percent of a company’s value, the loss of which would do irreparable or fatal damage. Yet unlike buildings or products, the “mobility” of trade secrets make them one of the country’s most vulnerable economic assets. Some intellectual property is so singular, or is so closely tied to national security research and development, that its loss to thieves or foreign intelligence services would cause incalculable harm.
FBI officials say they will primarily focus its intellectual property investigative efforts to protect those assets representing the greatest potential loss to the country. The Bureau will also focus on theft of other proprietary information, particularly computer software, to outpace those targeting this area of our country’s economic success.
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