Taking a Byte Out of Crime

From Agent Smiley <skywalker@disinfo.net>
Date 14 Aug 2000 22:27:46 -0000

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On 14 Aug 2000 21:40:14 -0000 Oscar  <patternmaster@disinfo.net> wrote:

By Paul Nowell
The Associated Press
C H A R L O T T E, N.C., Aug. 11 — Saying prevention is better than prosecution, federal law enforcement officials and private companies unveiled a new effort today to protect banks, utilities and other businesses from computer hackers and terrorists.
     “You can’t do much after the cow is out of the barn,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Calloway at the launching of InfraGard, a program that is opening its first state chapter in North Carolina.
     The North Carolina InfraGard chapter, with 100 members, will hold its first meeting Sept. 1 at the headquarters of Duke Energy in downtown Charlotte. Plans are in the works to open a satellite office near Research Triangle Park.
Grass-roots Crime Fighting
InfraGard is a grass-roots effort to respond to the need for cooperation and collaboration in countering the threat of cyber crime and terrorism to private businesses and the government.
     By the end of September, there will be InfraGard chapters in all 50 states, Calloway said.
     With advice from the FBI, each local chapter will be run by a board of directors that includes members of private industry, the academic community and public agencies.
     Banks, utilities, and other businesses and government agencies will use a secure Web site to share information about attempts to hack into their computer networks.
     Members can join the system at no charge.
     A key feature of the system is a two-pronged method of reporting attacks. A “sanitized” description of a hacking attempt or other incident — one that doesn’t reveal the name or sensitive information about the victim — can be shared with the other members to spot trends.
     Then a more detailed description also can be sent to the FBI’s computer crimes unit to determine if there are grounds for an investigation.

Service Free for Members
The key is the sharing of the information, said Doris Gardner, who is in charge of the FBI’s computer crimes unit in Charlotte.
     “When someone learns that someone from Brazil is trying to get into their personal computer, all they know is that they were knocking on the door,” she said. “They don’t know if that same hacker is trying to do the same thing to a state agency in Raleigh.”
     Cybercrime has jumped in recent years across the nation, particularly in hotbeds of financial commerce and technology like Charlotte.
     “Ten years ago, all you needed to protect yourself was a safe, a fence and security officers,” said Chris Swecker, who is in charge of the FBI’s Charlotte office. “Now any business with a modem is subject to attack.”
     FBI agents investigating computer hacking that disrupted popular Web sites including Amazon.com, CNN and Yahoo! this year identified several North Carolina victims. The investigation has also identified computer systems in North Carolina used by hackers to commit such attacks.
     Prosecutions of hackers have been hampered by the reluctance of businesses to report security intrusions for fear of bad publicity and lost business. Meanwhile, too many corporations have made it too easy for criminals by sacrificing security for speed and accessibility.
     Jack Wiles, who will lead the local InfraGard chapter’s board, said a recent report estimated 97 percent of all cybercrime goes undetected. Wiles, a computer security expert, has a firewall on his personal computer to prevent hackers from getting into his files.
     “I get at least one report a day that somebody was trying to get into my computer,” he said. “The Net is a wonderful place, but it’s also a dangerous one.” 

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