Recognizing and Combating Cybercrime

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Week Three

Recognizing and Combating Cybercrime

With the advent of the Information Age, our world continues to witness the computerization of information at breakneck speeds transforming our lives in an incredibly brief timespan.  Thus, with the growing economic emphasis on information, we have learned that as long as computers house critical, even secret data, there will be criminals of varying stripes who will seek to compromise networks and steal privileged information.

In order to combat cybercrime effectively one must define, what may be the IT industry’s buzzword of the year, before proceeding with this discussion.  Techopedia, in their report on cybercrime, defines the term as any illegal endeavor “in which a computer is the object of the crime or is used as a tool to commit an offense.”  Thus, as common sense dictates, the increasing awareness of cybersecurity is clearly being driven by the rise of cybercriminals who perpetrate computer fraud.

There should also be a recognition that crime, whether electronic or traditional, is generally driven by a fairly narrow set of motivating factors.  In the digital realm, these factors range from pure economic motivators to those of the hacktivists who fight perceived social injustices through electronic means.  In this presidential election year, hacktivism has generated a growing number of newspaper headlines related to electronic national security leaks, cybercrime, and security in general.

Additionally, the low risks and high rewards that cybercriminals face from hacking and fraud, make combating the issue all the more difficult for the FBI’s cybercrime division and other law enforcement agencies.  Yet, effective deterrents to this rising trend can be realized with an increase in public awareness to this issue, and a commitment by victims, whether corporate or individual to report these electronic criminal incidents to the proper law enforcement entity.

Broadly speaking, few local law enforcement agencies are technically equipped or legally capable of pursuing the most egregious cases of cybercrime.  From a local perspective most cases revolve around the possession of illegal pornography, while the larger economic or corporate level events fall under federal jurisdiction.

Two of the most effective and perhaps underutilized tools in combating cybercrime are both projects of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.  First, InfraGard is an FBI project which focuses on the prevention of cybercrime through a voluntary partnership with the public in sharing information and intelligence emanating from hostile acts.  U.S. citizens may apply for participation in the initiative directly with the FBI.

Secondly, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) provides an online portal for individuals to report on any electronic related criminal activity.  Through this tool, reporting individuals can be referred to the appropriate agency such as a Network Intrusion Investigator with the U. S. Secret Service or a local law enforcement department.

We must collectively understand that recognizing and combating cybercrime is an attainable goal, so long as we are aware of the threats and work together to minimize their impact.

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