U.S. Says Cybercrime a Major National Security Threat

A new report from the National Security Council warns that international cybercrime has reached the upper echelon of threats of to the security of the United States and is responsible for as much as $1 billion in losses in just one year in the U.S. The report, which focuses on a number of broad threats presented by organized crime groups around the world, says cybercrime poses a “significant threat to financial and trust systems.”

NSAA new report from the National Security Council warns that international cybercrime has reached the upper echelon of threats of to the security of the United States and is responsible for as much as $1 billion in losses in just one year in the U.S. The report, which focuses on a number of broad threats presented by organized crime groups around the world, says cybercrime poses a “significant threat to financial and trust systems.”

Released Monday by the NSC, The Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime is the latest in a series of strategic policy documents concerning information security and cybercrime that the Obama administration has published in the last few months. Though the strategy is mainly concerned with the threats posed by more traditional criminal activities such as drug smuggling, political corruption and bribery, human trafficking and arms trafficking.

However, there are a number of sections in the strategy that highlight how big a problem international cybercrime has become in recent years. Although problems such as phishing, bank fraud and credit-card theft have been serious issues for more than a decade now, the strategy emphasizes that the country’s growing dependence on the Internet and networks for financial transactions and commerce make it a critical threat.

“[Transnational organized crime] networks are increasingly involved in cybercrime, which costs
consumers billions of dollars annually, threatens sensitive corporate
and government computer networks, and under­mines worldwide confidence
in the international financial system. Through cybercrime, transnational
criminal organizations pose a significant threat to financial and trust
systems—banking, stock markets, e-currency, and value and credit card
services—on which the world economy depends. For example, some estimates
indicate that online frauds perpetrated by Central European cybercrime
networks have defrauded U.S. citizens or entities of approximately $1
billion in a single year,” the strategy says.

“According to the U.S. Secret Service, which
investigates cybercrimes through its 31 Electronic Crimes Task Forces,
financial crimes facilitated by anonymous online criminal fora result in
billions of dollars in losses to the Nation’s financial infrastructure. Pervasive criminal activity in cyberspace not only
directly affects its victims, but can imperil citizens’ and businesses’
faith in these digital systems, which are critical to our society and
economy. Computers and the Internet play a role in most transnational
crimes today, either as the target or the weapon used in the crime.”

Among the policy objectives set out in the new strategy, is protecting the country’s financial systems from organized crime groups. This is obviously easier said than done, as groups of attackers have been having their way with the banking and financial systems for some time now. To achieve this goal, the NSC report says that U.S. law enforcement will place special emphasis on cybercrime.

One of the action items in the strategy is: “Enhance domestic and foreign capabilities to combat the increasing
involvement of TOC networks in cybercrime and build international
capacity to forensically exploit and judicially process digital
evidence.”

The key agency in this effort is the Secret Service, which the report says is the hub of the government’s ability to gather and process data on cybercrimes and identify attackers.

“The information obtained is used to enhance the U.S. Secret Service’s
capabilities to prevent and mitigate attacks against the financial and
telecommunications infrastructures. This approach to intelligence
collection and sharing has resulted in the successful apprehension of
individuals charged with committing some of the world’s most advanced
cybercrimes during such investigations as those of the Heartland and TJX
Intrusions, Maksym Yastremskey, Albert Gonzalez, and others,” the strategy says.

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