Computer Crime Research Center


A Lot of People Just Don't Take the Basic Precautions

Date: August 19, 2008

At the end of the Black Hat hacker convention in Las Vegas this month, James Finch, head of the FBI's Cyber Division, sat down for an interview about crime and the Internet. About 4,000 people gathered at the annual convention to hear about research on the latest network and computer or electronic-device security vulnerabilities.

The FBI's Cyber Division is responsible for investigating high-tech crimes, including computer and network intrusions and child pornography cases. Each of the FBI's 56 field offices has a cyber squad, which pulls from a pool of 500 to 600 agents specializing in the area. According to an FBI spokesman, there are currently about 50 FBI-led cybercrime task forces across the country working cases with state and local authorities and with investigators from other law enforcement agencies.

These are excerpts from the interview:

QThere are some people who say the threat from cybercrime -- the financial threat and threat to our economy -- is overhyped. What do you think?

AI don't think it's overhyped. The Internet works the same for everybody, bad guys included. If you take the time to understand the Internet, let me tell you there aren't many things you can't peel back and look behind. Whether that requires decrypting encryption or undermining some of the safeguards we have, there's a way to do it.

AI think the government is doing a fairly good job of reaching and making people aware. Take, for example, or those are public-awareness sites. Other agencies have public-awareness sites on cyber. What do you want, the government to teach classes? I mean, the No. 1 criticism in many cases is that the government has overreached; they're reaching into our privacy, into our lives; they're interfering too much. Well, what more do we do than to try to make people aware, provide them with a place to go if they believe they've been harmed on the Internet? We can't force people to become more aware.

Q It appears that a huge number of people committing crimes are doing so through botnets and distributed proxy and anonymization networks. Can you talk about the challenges that development poses and how the FBI is addressing it?

AWell, botnets do create an identification problem. It's a challenge. Reason being, you have computers that are unwittingly being used to commit crimes, and so when the owner of the computer doesn't know his or her PC is being used to commit a crime, it makes it difficult . . . well, you can't go after that person for that crime.
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