Cybercrime fighters are scheduled to continue lobbying U.S. Congress on Thursday for more money and power to combat hackers, con artists and other cyber crooks.
“No one knows the full extent of the fraud being committed on the Internet,” Thomas T. Kubic, deputy assistant director for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), told the House of Representatives subcommittee on crime Tuesday. “Not all victims report fraud, and those who do, do not report it to one central repository.”
Kubic added: “The use of the Internet for criminal purposes is one of the most critical challenges facing the FBI and law enforcement in general.”
Tuesday’s hearing was the second in a series of three dealing with cybercrime. State and local officials testified in May on their cybercrime fighting efforts, and witnesses from private organizations, including eBay and the Business Software Association, are slated to speak Thursday.
Potential 911 Shutdown
Demonstrating the potentially serious consequences of cybercrime, James A. Savage, Jr., deputy special agent in charge of the financial crimes division of the U.S. Secret Service, told the hearing of two cases where hackers could have shut down 911 systems.
Savage said that in February, two major wireless companies notified the New York Electronic Crimes Task Force that they had identified two hackers in different remote sites who were attacking their systems and obtaining free long-distance service.
“The level of access obtained by the hackers was virtually unlimited, and had they chosen to do so, they could have shut down telephone service over a large geographic area, including 911 systems, as well as service to government installations and other critical infrastructure components,” Savage said.
In another case, a “prominent provider of electronic trading services on Wall Street” notified the Secret Service in March that it had received several denial-of-service (DoS) attacks on its servers. As a result of the DoS attacks, which locked legitimate customers out of the site, the company lost approximately US$35 million in trading fees and commissions, Savage said. The Secret Service arrested a former employee of the firm, who later admitted to committing the attacks.
Fighting cybercrime is a “daunting challenge” for law enforcement agencies at all levels, according to Kubic. The Internet is not only fostering new forms of crime, it is “becoming an increasingly attractive source of revenue for organized crime groups,” he added.
“The Internet presents new and significant investigatory challenges for law enforcement at all levels,” Kubic said.
These challenges include the ability of crooks to cloak themselves online, the need for close cooperation among law enforcement agencies, and the need for specialized training and equipment.
Private Cooperation Needed
Savage told the subcommittee that law enforcement agencies could not battle cybercrime alone.
“In addition to providing law enforcement with the necessary technical training and resources, a great deal more can be accomplished in fighting cybercrime if we are able to harness additional resources that exist outside government in the private sector and academia,” Savage said.
A number of private companies, including eBay and Microsoft, are already working closely with law enforcement and have established investigative units to catch Internet con artists.
Despite the obstacles, both the Secret Service and the FBI have had success in cracking down on cybercrime. Savage said that since 1995, the Secret Service charged over 800 individuals with electronic crimes valued at more than $425 million.
In May, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice announced that criminal charges had been filed against approximately 90 individuals and companies, as part of a nationwide crackdown on online fraud schemes that victimized more than 56,000 people.
The schemes — which included auction fraud, non-delivery of merchandise, investment scams and bank fraud — allegedly caused cumulative losses in excess of $117 million.