RealTime IT News

The FBI Fight Against Organized Cyber Crime

As the Black Hat conference descends upon Las Vegas this week, internetnews.com presents a series of articles addressing security issues past and present.

LAS VEGAS -- Think cyber criminals are unorganized? Think again.

The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (ICC) is at the nexus of the fight on Internet crime. It's at the receiving end of those that have been violated as it fights the fight against organized cyber crime.

Dan Larkin, ICC unit chief, kicked off the Black Hat 2006 conference with a keynote on what the FBI is doing to fight organized cyber crime.

Larkin also tried to make the case that the FBI needs the help of people such as Black Hat attendees to combat cybercrime.

Larkin told the standing room only capacity crowd (with overflow in a separate room in which the keynote was simulcast) that the ICC gets about 22,000 complaints a month.

Industry partners provide the FBI with nearly 10 times that amount of intelligence with over 200,000 complaints a month.

"Something that eBay sees may not be the same that Microsoft sees," Larkin said. "But we connect the dots and try and help industry and us to build cases faster."

Larkin who looked distinctly out of place at the hacker gathering, wearing a suit and tie, admitted that he used to be really afraid of security researchers but he has come to learn that they're the key to the FBI's success.

For Larkin, it's all about making it personal, a point that he re-iterated time and again during his keynote.

It's personal in terms of finding the persons responsible for cyber crime and personal in terms of forging fruitful partners with industry and others to identify those responsible for cyber crime.

"Intelligence is the key," Larkin said. "We need to break down barriers."

Breaking down barriers isn't only a part of fighting cyber crime, but also against terrorism.

Larkin said that the FBI, with help of it partners, reviewed the e-mail accounts of the 19 Sept. 11 terrorists.

They identified a virus in one of the e-mail accounts and were able to reconstruct virus's origin, which allegedly was a person that had the terrorist on their contact list.

Larkin also reminded attendees to be aware of what the broader nature of the problem is.

Spammers and phishers are not just technical issues to be dealt with by techies; they are highly organized crime and money laundering operations.

"We can't just look at what's incoming; we have to do some undercover work -- make some buys," Larkin said.