Computer Crime Research Center


Panel targets cybercrime

Date: March 04, 2005
By: Matthew Olson

The ChoicePoint scandal that released 4,500 Colorado residents' sensitive financial information to a fraud ring is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cybercrime in Colorado, according to Dave Mahon, the supervisory special agent of the Cyber Crime Squad for the Denver division of the FBI.

The results of an FBI survey mailed three weeks ago to businesses across the country will reveal that the number of reported cybercrimes cases in Colorado will double the 2,500 reported cases in 2003.

"ChoicePoint is not a unique situation. It's just that people know about it," Mahon said. "Many times business will not report that they have been victimized because of the public embarrassment, and they fear a loss of customers and a drop in stock price. Cybercrime can be as damaging a problem to the business sector as Enron if companies do not begin to educate themselves on the full scope of the problem."

To help businesses and private citizens understand the scope of the problem, Mahon will be the featured speaker at the Cyber Crime Symposium today.

"The goal of the symposium is to educate businesses and the public about the problem and to offer businesses ways to protect themselves," said Alison Short, the group's spokeswoman. "Businesses that don't protect themselves properly and experience cybercrimes face huge losses: loss of customer revenue, customer trust, the expense of rebuilding lost information and the possibility of civil lawsuits if their customers are harmed. Businesses need to know how to protect themselves. The first step is education."

Mahon said he has investigated cases where a hacker infiltrates a company's computers, steals valuable information and threatens to publish the information unless the company agrees to pay a lot of cash.

"Some of the companies have paid up and not reported the crime until they were extorted a second time," Mahon said. "The financial losses companies absorb from cybercrime are staggering. Just from the reported cases, companies lost $141 million to cybercrime last year."

Mahon attributes the current spike in cybercrime to the easy availability of hacking tools.

"It used to be that you needed a large amount of expertise and knowledge to hack a system. Now, criminals can download hacking software from the Internet and unleash it against a company. The criminals don't even have to understand how it works."

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