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How global is cybercrime? One recent prosecution involved 40 countries

Tapping at keyboards, cybercriminals can scour the globe for victims, and ‘the United States really has the biggest bullseye on its forehead,’ says the chief of the criminal division of the Justice Department. Photo taken Oct. 5, 2016
Tapping at keyboards, cybercriminals can scour the globe for victims, and ‘the United States really has the biggest bullseye on its forehead,’ says the chief of the criminal division of the Justice Department. Photo taken Oct. 5, 2016 McClatchy

For savvy cybercriminals, times just keep getting better.

The internet has ramped up the power of criminals in far off lands “who can now much more easily victimize many more people all over the world, including the United States,” said Leslie Caldwell, chief of the criminal division of the Justice Department.

“They can do it quickly, they can do it anonymously and they do it without ever setting foot in this country,” Caldwell told a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The global harvest from cybercrime is reaching astronomical levels, she said.

“As we rely more and more on networked communications to handle literally every aspect of our lives, the cost of cybercrime is just going to keep going up,” Caldwell said. “It should be about $2 trillion globally by 2019, according to several estimates, and as I’ve said before, the United States really has the biggest bulls-eye on its forehead.”

The globalized nature of cybercrime means that U.S. officials are collaborating with a growing number of crime-fighting agencies around the world, she said.

U.S. prosecutors have chalked up some recent successes, she said. Among them:

▪ The announcement earlier this week of the take-down of a complex network of servers, known as Avalanche, that allowed criminals to steal banking credentials and set up fraudulent wire transfers. The investigation involved 40 countries.

▪ The August conviction in Seattle of Roman Seleznev, the son of a Russian politician, found guilty of a massive credit card trafficking scheme that caused $169 million in fraud losses.

▪ Successful prosecution of Vladimir Drinkman, a Russian who compromised 160 million credit cards worldwide, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

Criminals using the internet try to do so from countries where they cannot be extradited for trial in U.S. courts, Caldwell said, adding that they still keep watch on U.S. prosecutors.

“These are sophisticated criminals who are aware of our prosecutions and who are deterred by them. Of course, they are still engaging in criminal activity but they adapt their behavior because of things we do,” Caldwell said.

Tim Johnson: 202-383-6028, @timjohnson4

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