EU cybercop: Europe battles insiders-turned-hackers

The security adviser for the European Electronic Crimes Task Force (EECTF) in Milan, Italy, warned this week that Europe is dealing with a growing problem that has already had ramifications for governments and businesses around the world: insiders who become hackers for profit.

"The 'gray hat' phenomenon is growing in Europe," said Dario Forte, referring to people employed as security consultants who also engage in criminal computer hacking. "Companies should increase screening and control of IT personnel. And customers should think twice before leaving their IT systems in the hands of contractors."

Forte, who prior to joining the EECTF was the director of the Italian financial police, spoke at the Black Hat security conference here.

He outlined a recent investigation into an Italian hacker group known as the Reservoir Dogs. Of the 14 members arrested last August by the Italian financial police in what became known as Operation Rootkit, 10 were employed as security experts and four were minors. The group was responsible for a series of hacking incidents that spanned the globe and included the likes of NASA, the U.S. Army and Navy and various financial companies in the U.S. and abroad.

"Some were working as information security managers in big consulting firms and Internet service providers, even Italian branches of U.S. companies," said Forte. "They were white hats by day and black hats by night."

Because the case is still open, Dario couldn't name the companies involved. However, he did say that Operation Rootkit involved investigations into more than 1,000 compromised systems in the U.S. and Europe, including 100 U.S. military and government systems. Law enforcement officials from the U.S. and Europe seized more than 40 computers belonging to the hackers, as well as nearly a terabyte worth of evidence that included hundreds of stolen credit card numbers.

The Reservoir Dogs, led by a hacker known as Pentoz, employed internal communications methods similar to those used by organized crime rings, such as encrypted Internet Relay Chat sessions, secure shell and IPv6 tunnels, said Forte. In addition, "they used compromised machines for one single criminal act and then they burned it (clean of evidence)," he said.

In addition to using a compromised University of Pennsylvania system to launch attacks, the group also took control of a corporate Web server in Germany and used it to attack U.S. Army systems. Working with the U.S. Army's criminal Investigation Division, Forte was able to trace many of the attacks back to a flat-rate dial-up service in Italy that was used by members of the group.

"Without international cooperation, it wouldn't have been possible to achieve a good correlation of events," said Forte.

In a more recent case dubbed the Cyprus Credit Card Case, Forte was notified that the leader of a worldwide credit card trafficking ring had been arrested in Cyprus. The EECTF was able to arrange for the travel of both the evidence and police officers involved in the case to its forensic lab in Italy. Once in Italy, the EECTF was able to conduct a forensic examination that recovered enough evidence to keep the defendants in jail until a more complete investigation could be completed in the U.S.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Dan Verton

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?