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Law agencies shift cyber crime focus to those behind online scams

13 Jun 2014
A man behind bars

Over the last few weeks law enforcement agencies in major nations have started going after the cyber criminals behind the scams and cyber weapons that affect individuals and firms across the world.

This started with the US Department of Defense (DoJ) charging five Chinese officials with spying on US firms, followed by charges against a Russian hacker believed to be behind the notorious Gameover Zeus malware.

Next it was the Russians themselves who got in on the act, with the Russian Interior Ministry arresting a crooks allegedly responsible for a wave of cyber attacks hitting Apple iPhone and iPad devices.

Then on Friday the US issued charges against Romanian hacker 'Guccifer'. The charges come after authorities in Romania charged Gucccifer for a wave of attacks on high profile targets including past presidents' family members.

The efforts to arrest and bring to justice those accused of major cyber crimes comes during a heated debate about the best way to combat cyber crime among security experts.

As we noted earlier in February, some believe going after the criminals running the online rackets is the most effective strategy while others still think taking down the tools and infrastructure powering the scams is a worthwhile exercise.

In light of the recent arrests, the CTO of FireEye, Greg Day reiterated his stance that all arrests are positive, claiming the latest actions shows law enforcement is finally making good on its promise to hunt down those behind the botnets.

"Nearly 10 years ago to the day nations came together to agree a legal framework on cybercrime; the Budapest convention. Yet the reality of finding the culprits on the global internet, gathering the evidence and prosecuting entailed skills and complexities that had never been faced before," he told V3.

"In recent years many nations have increasingly recognised that cyber truly is a key national challenge and as such we are seeing the investments and focus being made that enable more focus and discovery of cyber criminals to leverage the Budapest convention for prosecution."

Day added he expects to see yet more hackers arrested in the near future.

"I can only expect these announcements to become the increasing norm as we continue to invest in capabilities to understand such attacks and enable the right skills and resources to hunt down the culprits," he said.

However, F-Secure security analyst Sean Sullivan mirrored Day's sentiment, said the arrests will have little impact on the overall cyber crime community.

"In the last couple of years especially - crime and cyber-crime have blurred. Law enforcement has been catching up to the new reality, has grown more skilled in investigating new crimes - and so these arrests are just the evolution of things. Cyber crime is crime and so arrests are good but aren't a sign of a ‘fix' for the cyber realm," he told V3.

While Sullivan's comments are undoubtedly true and the issue of cyber crime will continue to haunt businesses and governments, for us here at V3 the announcements are, as Day said, positive and are a clear indication law enforcement is finally doing its job and hunting down cyber criminals.

Hopefully this trend will continue and Day's prediction yet more arrests are on the horizon will prove true.

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Alastair Stevenson

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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