The U.S. government has been quietly taking some giant steps forward over the past few weeks in the fight against cybercrime. But just how serious are the feds in tracking and punishing those who perpetrate crimes online?
In November, the Department of Defense (DOD) awarded a US$86 million contract to Computer Sciences Corporation (NYSE: CSC) to train DOD cybercrime fighters. That came just days after the U.S. and 29 other countries signed an international treaty to fight online crime.
Also, in early December, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller created a new unit specifically focused on fighting cybercrime. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is adding at least 50 new federal cybercrime prosecutors across the U.S.
Much of the effort of the new prosecutors is to be aimed at fighting threats and acts of terrorism communicated online or executed via the Internet.
Privately owned online businesses and individual consumers should ultimately reap the rewards of the government’s stepped up anti-cybercrime activities.
According to Jupiter Media Metrix, at least 25 cents of every $100 spent online is lost to online fraud. Gartner Group claims Jupiter is underestimating the problem. Gartner’s own security research indicates losses could be as much as 10 times more than Jupiter’s claim.
Either way, the perpetrators are becoming more savvy, more numerous and increasingly aggressive.
State law enforcement agencies and concerned online shoppers and merchants would do well to keep an eye on the state of Virginia.
This week, U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty of northern Virginia and the FBI formed a coalition to fight cybercrime, electronic terrorism, online child pornography, software piracy and other criminal efforts that compromise the security of online banks, utilities and essential services.
This is likely to be a high-profile war waged covertly but reported on widely. Virginia intends to alert current and would-be cyber-criminals that the gig is up.
Just as McNulty’s forces rallied and announced their intentions, the FBI unveiled its own unprecedented cooperative cybercrime fighting effort with local and state law enforcement, as well as the DOD and private industry.
If there is a weakness involved in the fight it is simply that the good guys are largely traditionalists schooled in conventional crime-fighting techniques, while the perpetrators are well-versed in new economy technology and gifted at finding electronic hiding places.
Those who run child pornography Web sites can easily operate well outside the confines and jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement, as can individuals who operate illegal gambling sites.
Commonly, once the Feds turn up the heat, such Web site owners either close up shop immediately, or simply take a breather and begin again later under a new name or from another location.
The positive side of the government’s recent battle against cybercrime is the increased cooperation among various enforcement agencies and e-commerce industries.
Up until now the fight was somewhat splintered. Industry did its best to act independently in the fight, while government never seemed quite able to find its place in the battle.
Still, legislators are split in their opinions about the new initiatives. Some, such as Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) have publicly stated they believe the Secret Service and the U.S. Customs offices are the appropriate agencies to take on the fight.
Chances are, it is the unified effort of government and industry that will ultimately prevail in what promises to be the crime war of the new century.
Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.