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Cybercrime crackdown

Date: August 30, 2004
Source: THE JOURNAL NEWS


Two U.S. Justice Department operations have resulted in more than 150 arrests involving computer crimes that bilked an estimated 150,000 victims out of more than $215 million. That's the good news. The bad news is that computer security experts say cybercrime, including identity theft and criminal spamming, is on the increase despite efforts to combat it.

Attorney General John Ashcroft called the three-month "Operation Web Snare" "the largest and most successful collaborative law enforcement operation ever conducted to prosecute online-related fraud, stop identity theft and prevent other computer-related crimes." Among those snared in the crackdown web, as reported in USA Today, were:

A federal employee in Missouri who took the Social Security numbers of co-workers from an employee roster to apply for credit cards on the Internet.

A Romanian who hacked into a California company's online purchasing system and stole more than $10 million in computer equipment.

A Pakistani who tried to extort $685,000 from a clothing manufacturer by threatening to post the company's use of child labor on the Internet.

A Ukrainian who used a chat room to traffic in stolen credit card numbers.

Another Justice Department offensive, "Operation Slam Spam," involved more than 100 cases and dozens of people allegedly involved in sending fraudulent e-mail in efforts to gain personal information, such as Social Security numbers, as well as computer viruses that enable the spammer to take control of victims' PCs. Hijacked computers, called zombies, are then used to send fraudulent e-mail, spam, network worms and viruses. That's enough to make anyone cybershy.

Alan Paller, research director at the SANS Institute, an Internet security think tank and training center, praised the arrests, but told USA Today that the crackdown "lacks any substantial effectiveness in stopping the larger security problems facing the average computer user."

Indeed, spam made up 71 percent of e-mail traffic in July, compared with 63 percent in December before the Can-Spam Act took effect in January. Many of the largest spammers have moved operations out of the country to dodge the law. That doesn't mean law enforcement should give up, just that it must work harder and cooperatively with private cybersecurity firms to really slam, and can, spam.



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