Computer Crime Research Center


Cybercrimes - Crack force

Date: January 09, 2008
By: Maija Palme

RSA, the internet security specialist, for example, works for most of the world's largest banks to identify and stop phishing attempts, in which emails purporting to be from trusted contacts encourage victims to hand over confidential data. Its work involves infiltrating underground networks where hacking tips are traded to find out where the next attack might come from. RSA also runs an international network through which more than 2,500 banks can quickly share information about cybercrime attacks.

Andrew Moloney, RSA's European director for financial services, says the United Nations is considering establishing something similar, but this could take years to get off the ground.

Part of the problem is the sheer scale of internet crime. Symantec, the internet security company, estimated that it blocked about eight million phishing emails a day in the second half of 2006. About 20 million computers around the world are estimated to be in the control of hackers, and researchers say they are seeing more than 6,000 new pieces of malicious computer code created each day. Millions of stolen credit cards numbers are routinely bought and sold for pennies apiece on underground networks daily.

Police resources, on the other hand, are limited. In the UK, for instance, the Serious Organised Crime Agency investigates larger-scale internet crimes. But while the agency has about 4,000 staff, it also deals with money laundering, drug trafficking and other offline issues. Smaller e-crimes are reported to local police forces which are already stretched and tend to lack officers with specialist training needed to track internet crime. Yet it is often this kind of small-scale fraud that causes reputational damage among companies and deters customers from using their online services.

"Law enforcement are quite challenged by the international nature of this kind of crime," says Garreth Griffith, head of risk at PayPal. "It is also quite high-volume but low-value crime, which is difficult for the police to track. If you go to the police and tell them you just sent £500 by Western Union to Romania but didn't get the laptop you thought you were buying, they are likely to be sympathetic, but it won't be a priority for them as it isn't a large sum of money.

"We may be able to build a better picture. There may have been five people who also lost £500 to Romania in the same way. We can go to law enforcement with what is now a £2,500 crime and maybe even some information on where to find the scammer."
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