Catching Credit Thieves: A Global Approach

The U.S. Department of Justice published a new report, “Examining the Structure, Organization, and Processes Computer monitorof the International Market for Stolen Data”, by Thomas Holt and Olga Smirnova.  This report found that Russia provides a “home base” for hackers and that many hackers and data thieves are operating primarily in Russia or on websites where users communicate in Russian, making it easier to hide from U.S. and European authorities.

Holt and Smirnova analyzed almost 2,000 threads from 13 web forums through which credit card and data were stolen.  They found that:

  • 10 of the forums were in Russian and 3 were in English, though the forums were hosted across the world.
  • Visa and MasterCard were the most common cards for sale.
  • The average advertised price for a stolen credit or bank card number was about $102.
  • The average price for access to a hacked eBay or PayPal account was about $27.

There are several things that can be done to help eliminate this problem of hacking. First, because this is a global problem, it is imperative that countries work together to fight hacking and data theft through rigorous investigation using various channels. The U.S. must also work to protect its citizens by hiring more Russian-speaking analysts to penetrate the web forums and ensure the hackers are stopped before they can steel valuable information.  We must also provide up-to-date technology at agencies such as the FBI, Secret Service and other federal agencies to more effectively combat cybercrime.   More stringent state and federal cybercrime laws should also be passed to promote security and corporate responsibility. Stopping massive data breaches and hackers access to private information will require a sophisticated, collaborative approach by law enforcement agencies around the world.

Holt states it is imperative that “consumers understand the potential harm from responding to unsolicited email and clicking on suspicious web links as well as the need to run anti-virus and security tools on their computers.”  Consumers should also be better informed about the current cyber threats and what they can do to protect themselves. This can be done though public awareness campaigns to promote basic computer security practices.  

For more information about cyber security, visit the HSDL’s featured topic list on Cyber Crime and National Security. (HSDL log-in required).

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