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Wheres the global digital fraud investigation bureau?

Ross O. Storey | Feb. 10, 2010
We need a global authority, with sharp teeth, to crack down on cyber criminals.

Perhaps it is time for the United Nations, or another appropriate global body, to form an international bureau to fight cyber crimesome sort of planet-wide Digital Fraud Investigation Bureau with teeth.

The way the digital threat environment has become the focus of organised criminals, who routinely flout national laws, to steal credit card numbers and identities, indicates that a multinational approach, independent of geographic borders, is needed to crack down on such digital thieves. Because thats what they are21st century thieves, who have now developed a dark, underground, shadow industry that threatens corporations, governments and individuals.

These thoughts crossed my mind at an executive briefing in Jakarta last week, which was coordinated by MIS Asia magazine and sponsored by virtualisation security gurus Trend Micro.

One of the speakers, Edison Yu, a senior analyst with Frost & Sullivan, unveiled an amazing view of how this shadow Internet currently works. He had all the facts and figures.

Blackhat bazaars

Apparently, cyber crime has now reached the stage where there are specialised online blackhat bazaars, where anyone who knows how to access them can buy credit card numbers and identities for about the cost of an average meal.

Edison told the delegates that credit card information was now available for purchase on underground economy servers for between US$1 and US$6 each. Identitiesincluding US bank account, credit card, date of birth and government issued ID numberswere available for between US$14 and US$18.

He said information on these organised crime networks was circulated via IRC chat rooms and secret forums where participants had to go through a referral process, to ensure they had the right black hat intentions.

This dirty underground business has apparently reached the stage where its now worth about US$105 billion annually, more than the illegal world drug trade.

These modern-day technical Al Capones have become so business-efficient that Edison said they even were offering monthly updates for malware.

Too open for their own good

Edison made the point that individuals who willingly shared personal information about themselves on social networks such as Facebook were largely to blame for the current threatening digital security situation. People are their own worst enemies.

He said the recent Google PR war with China came about because hackers used Facebook to target key Google employees. They posed as friends and spread malware to compromise their gmail accounts. He painted a terrifying scenario, where people who told the world about their childrens holiday plans had found themselves targeted by thugs claiming to have kidnapped them.  

A global approach

Cyber criminals are now professional and organised. They are after corporations money and the returns make it well worth their while. At the moment, they all too easily run rings around national authorities in different countries because of the diverse jurisdictions and different laws.

But which country and which politicians will raise this issue? Who will spearhead the push for a Digital Fraud Investigation Bureau? And who would take on such a difficult job?


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