Investigating Cyber Crime – Those Doing the Chasing
Cyber crime is no flash in the pan. Unfortunately, it's here to stay. As it spirals out of control, the investigators assigned to catch the bad guys are overwhelmed and understaffed.
It must feel like one step forward, two steps back.
Thankfully, there are organizations out there helping regular law enforcement with the onslaught of cyber crime: organizations like the Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Department of Defense's Cyber Crime Center, both of which work with other government agencies, the private sector, academic institutions, and foreign governments to prevent, investigate and prosecute cyber crimes.
Perhaps the most well-known law enforcement agency in a full-fledged battle to take down cyber crooks is the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation).
According to the Bureau's website, its cyber mission is first and foremost, "to stop those behind the most serious computer intrusions and the spread of malicious code."
The FBI has several cyber operations, including a Cyber Division at FBI headquarters, specially trained Cyber Squads at 56 field offices across the United States, Cyber Action Teams that travel the world to assist in computer intrusion cases, and 93 Computer Crimes Task Forces around the country. Six years ago, the FBI also established the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a joint effort with the National White Collar Crime Center.
Unfortunately, prosecutions in a lot of cyber crime cases remain relatively few, as the nature and scale of the problem continues to grow.
One of the top problems for investigators today: Botnet controllers. In addition to being tech savvy, they move quickly and are well-practiced in evading the law.
"It's not impossible to track these guys down, but it's technical," Joe Stewart, a senior researcher with the SecureWorks security agency told CBC News Online. "It takes people that really understand the guts of these things, and unfortunately there are not enough of these people in law enforcement."
The Department of Justice is doing its best to assist local and state law enforcement in the fight against e-crime as these agencies often do not have computer experts on the payroll. The department recently released a manual providing details on how to investigate everything from cyber-stalking to spam and illegal hacking.
With no end in sight for cyber crime, several post-secondary institutions across the States have made it their mission to educate a new generation of e-crime fighters.
The University of Texas at San Antonio recently announced it will open a cyber security research center in June that will train students to become "cyber warriors."
The Cyber Defender Program at the University of North Carolina is one of only 22 universities in the U.S. with a program specifically designed to combat online hackers.
"We're very unique in combining the technical know how and also the criminology aspect," said program chief Dr. Bill Chu.
Students major in Criminal Justice with a minor in Software and Information Systems, or vice versa. According to Chu, many students who graduated with the combination major/minor have gone on to work for such agencies like the FBI.
If you think you or someone you know has been victimized by a cyber thief, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is one of the places to turn. There is a complaint form available online here.