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2 minutes on…Do authorities get cybercrime?

October 8, 2007
It seems as if we see a new form of online criminal activity just about every day. If it isn't a bank's website being taken over by criminals, it's an attempt by a Russian gang to shut down a country's financial infrastructure or a trick to con consumers into downloading executable code hoping to steal passwords.

But how often do we hear about cybercriminals being caught? Not nearly as often.
That begs the question: Do the authorities “get” cybercrime?

“Some do, some don't,” is the way Dan Hubbard, senior director of security and technology research at Websense, puts it.

Solving “cybercrime is not an easy problem and it's growing by leaps and bounds,” Hubbard adds.
At first glance, it might appear the good guys are keeping pace with the bad guys. After all, we often see news indicating that the FBI or some other U.S. government agency has caught and/or successfully prosecuted someone for a so-called cybercrime.

But is that only the tip of the iceberg? “Law enforcement can't catch everyone, they don't have enough resources,” says John Wolfe, director of internet enforcement for the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which combats software piracy.

Lack of expertise in fighting computer-based crime is particularly vexing at the local level, says Wolfe. In those situations, the BSA is willing to take on the legwork for pinpointing the suspect, then turn the evidence over to local authorities for prosecution, he says.

He cited a piracy case with a county police department. “They took evidence from us, executed a search warrant and brought charges.”

Wolfe thinks federal authorities are doing a good job, especially when it comes to investigating and convicting software pirates. “The FBI's high-tech crime squad in North Virginia goes after software pirates aggressively, then takes them and prosecutes them in that state where the federal court is.”
Wolfe says that with sentences running as long as six years, the message is: If you're doing this, you have a high risk of getting caught. And when you get caught, you'll receive a significant sentence.”
— Jim Carr

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