Amid heightened awareness of terrorism and computer attacks, computer crime professionals gathered at the Foxwoods Resort Casino here this week to hone their cybersleuthing skills at the third annual Cybercrime conference.
The three-day conference and exhibition tackled a wide range of security-related issues, from hackers and worms to intellectual property theft, computer forensics and organized crime.
Unlike other security-focused IT trade shows which tend to focus only on how to prevent crimes, Cybercrime also addressed ways to investigate and prosecute computer crimes.
The audience here was made up of crime professionals from law enforcement, government and the private sector in equal parts, according to James Doyle, president of Internet Crimes, in Madison, Connecticut , a high technology training company that hosted the conference.
As in past years, the purpose of the show is to call attention to the growing sophistication of computer criminals and to raise the level of sophistication of those charged with investigating computer crimes.
"Law enforcement must be aware that technology is continually advancing and that the criminal element will adopt new technology as it comes along," Doyle said. "It's not like fingerprints, where you can train someone once and they can lift prints for the next 20 years."
To tackle the problem, Cybercrime attempts to combine technology with education and awareness training for those who confront or investigate computer crimes, Doyle said.
Unlike past years, however, the looming possibility of both war and terrorist attacks were on the minds of attendees as well as show organizers.
A number of seminars focused on issues related to domestic security including talks on the threat of cyberterrorism and protecting critical infrastructure from representatives from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the CERT Coordination Center .
Despite the high visibility of domestic security on the show's agenda, most law enforcement personnel interviewed here said the threat of cyberterrorism was remote compared to the day-to-day challenge of fighting crimes like identity and intellectual property theft or child exploitation.
But for Doyle, the lack of a major, documented act of cyberterrorism doesn't make the threat less real.
"People say that the cyberterrorism threat isn't real, but three years ago, who imagined that the World Trade Center would be brought down by hijacked airplanes?"
Law enforcement needs to be more aware of how computer crimes can be used by terrorists to achieve their goals, according to Doyle.
The federal government's decision to increase the national threat level and the Columbia space shuttle disaster combined to pull away two of the conference's scheduled speakers, but Doyle counted the three-day event a success.
The threat of terrorism aside, wireless and biometric technology got a lot of attention from show-goers, Doyle said.
Attending his first-ever Cybercrime show, Jack Wegert, an investigator at the Office of the District Attorney in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said he benefited from a session on conducting investigations of international economic fraud and a discussion on working with law enforcement by Joseph Sullivan, senior counsel for rules, trust and safety at eBay Inc.
Although he is asked to cover a wide range of criminal cases, Mr. Wegert said that, more and more, he is investigating economic crimes involving the Internet.
Though not a "techie" by his own admission, Wegert said that he benefited from the educational sessions, from learning about the tools available to law enforcement and from meeting other law enforcement and technology professionals in the field.
"I wish I had this six months ago," Wegert said.
Although fewer in number than at other security related shows, technology vendors exhibiting at Cybercrime 2003 reported a good turnout this year compared with prior years.
"It's grown considerably," said James Donahue, a senior account executive who manned a booth on the exhibit floor for his employer, Enterasys Networks Inc., of Rochester, New Hampshire .
Donahue, who has attended all three Cybercrime shows, estimated attendance at this year's show at around 800, up from approximately 200 when it began three years ago.