Computer Crime Research Center


Cyber-crime battle, Feds

Date: February 24, 2006
By: Lisa Hoffmann

One of the persistent unknowns in the battle against cyber-crime is the true scope of the problem.

Since the Internet revolution began a decade ago, U.S. businesses have been so reluctant to report cyber-victimization that experts believe the toll may be substantially higher than anyone estimates, law-enforcement officials say.

But a sweeping survey recently begun by the Department of Justice may provide the clearest picture yet of the scourge of computer viruses, worms, spyware, network intrusion, fraud, theft of information and other security breaches.

The departments of Justice and Homeland Security have unveiled plans to randomly - and confidentially - query 36,000 firms, which were selected as a sample of 5.3 million U.S. businesses across 37 industry sectors.

The survey data "will provide the first official national statistics on the extent and consequences of cyber crime," Justice spokesman Stu Smith said in a statement.

The department hopes it also will pierce the unwritten code of silence that most companies follow when it comes to cyber-crime.

"Most companies that experience computer intrusions or breaches of security do not report the incidents to law enforcement," FBI Director Robert Mueller said at a Feb. 15 Business Software Alliance town-hall meeting.

That reluctance stems from two beliefs by many firms: that it's a waste of time to report such an incident because there is little the police can do about it; and that revealing an attack could hurt their bottom line through bad publicity and diminished customer confidence in their security procedures.

To reassure businesses that they can be candid, the federal survey will take extra steps to ensure the responses from individual firms remain confidential, spokesman Smith said. Only a select handful of staff from the Rand Corp., which will conduct the survey, will even know the identity of the individual companies involved.
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