Experts see forecast worsen for cybercrime

But investigators say they're developing clearer strategies for dealing with online crime

Law enforcement agencies can count a few recent victories against cybercriminals, but agents say the battle against them isn't getting any easier.

Highly organized cybercriminals are using increasingly sophisticated tools and methods that make them hard to trace, said Keith Mularski, supervisory special agent with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's Cyber Division.

"They have evolved over the years," Mularkski said. "It really is organized crime."

Mularski, who spoke at the RSA conference in London on Wednesday, has had great success in infiltrating organized cybercrime rings. He successfully infiltrated a ring known as DarkMarket, an online forum where criminals bought and sold personal data, such as credit card numbers.

DarkMarket was shut down about a year ago and 59 people were arrested, with the help of authorities in the U.K., Germany, Turkey and other countries.

While the DarkMarket bust was a big win, there are still such forums operating today and they're hard to infiltrate. New members must be vetted for reliability and to ensure they're not agents like Mularski.

The malicious software programs used to collect the data have become insidiously complicated and hard to detect. Financial organizations now are in a "raging battle" against "high-grade" weaponry, said Uri Rivner, RSA's head of new technologies for identity protection and verification, who gave a presentation earlier in the day at RSA.

Those programs go by names such as Sinowal -- also known as Mebroot and Torpig -- which is a nasty rootkit that burrows in a computer's master boot record below the OS. It may not even be removed by reinstalling the operating system. It can steal data and even modify the HTML of Web pages requested by a user.

Computers that do not have up-to-date software patches are in particular danger. Hackers often set up Web sites or hack legitimate ones to perform what's called a "drive-by" download, which automatically exploits vulnerable software programs to infect a computer.

Microsoft has particular insight into the problem. Late last month, the company released its free Security Essentials antivirus software and so far it has been downloaded 3.5 million times, said Amy Barzdukas, Microsoft's general manager for Internet Explorer and Consumer Security, who also spoke at RSA.

More than 30 percent of those computers running Security Essentials needed "a fair amount of cleaning of viruses, Trojans and rootkits," she said.

While it may be hard for law enforcement to figure out who is writing those malicious programs, they do have a clear five-prong strategy for how to disrupt the cybercrime operations.

Agents try to infiltrate the groups if possible, said Andy Auld head of intelligence of the e-crime department for the U.K.'s Serious Organized Crime Agency, who spoke alongside Mularski.

Following the money exchanged for personal data is also a "critical path," Auld said. Tracking down stolen data is important, as credit card numbers that are being traded can be shut down before the criminals have a chance to use or sell the numbers.

Another path is finding ways to revoke the IP (Internet Protocol) address allocations given to cybercriminals running servers. Those allocations are given by five organizations, including the RIPE Network Coordination Center, he said.

The FBI has become more proactive in dealing with fast-breaking cybercrime issues, Mularski said. For example, the FBI has issued public service advisories warning people of online-related hazards, stepping away from its secretive tradition.

"We're adapting," Mularski said. "We're making great strides."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags rsa securitymarket researchcybercrime

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?