Computer Crime Research Center


FBI expert says cyber crime in "Untraceable" isn't far-fetched

Date: January 27, 2008

The new thriller “Untraceable,” about a serial killer who murders his victims in live webcasts, may be fiction, but it’s based on fact.

So says former FBI cyber-crime specialist E.J. Hilbert, who was a consultant on the Diane Lane film, which opened Friday, and now is head of security for MySpace.

“This movie is as technically correct as it can be while still being entertaining,” Hilbert said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.

Early in “Untraceable” the FBI agent portrayed by Lane identifies a teenage hacker who has stolen thousands of credit card numbers and used them to go on a buying spree.

She tracks him down to his suburban home (he’s using a neighbor’s Wi-Fi as a cover) and orders an FBI team to break down his door.

Absolutely how it really works, according to Hilbert.

“The only area in which we fudge is the time frame,” he said. “Real-life crime investigation isn’t as fast as what you see in the movie. In real life you’d get bored watching us.

“But as to the methodology, it’s very accurate. This is how the FBI monitors this stuff. It’s pretty realistic. We wouldn’t bust somebody for stealing one credit card, but in some of these cases we were dealing with people who had stolen hundreds of thousands of card numbers.”

As for the idea of a killer broadcasting his murders over the Web, it’s entirely possible, Hilbert said. In fact it has already happened with some jihadist Web sites providing live coverage of the execution of Westerners they’ve taken hostage.

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