The Economy Fuels Cyber Crime

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), cyber crime was up in 2008, and if the first few months of 2009 is anything to go by, this trend is not only continuing, it is accelerating.

As the country slides into recession, early indicators for 2009-February to March 2009-shows an additional 50% increase in reported Internet fraud complaints.

“These numbers are shocking, but given that the vast majority of incidents go unreported, the threat of identification theft is actually much more serious than even these figures would lead us to believe,” says Justin Yurek, President of ID Watchdog, Inc. Common wisdom says that only one cyber crime in seven-or about fifteen percent-is actually reported.

Internet fraud includes everything from bogus sales on auction sites such as eBay and classified sites like craigslist.com, to smaller scale version of the Ponzi scheme perpetrated by disgraced New York financier Bernard Madoff.

As an example, a scam recently surfaced via e-mails that masquerade as originating from the FBI and other federal agencies seeking the recipient’s bank account information in order to “help with illegal wire transfer investigations.” Sweet.

The Recession Impact

Many observers put the continued surge in cyber crime down to the recession, and for several reasons.

As reported by the TechArena Forum , McAfee for one, in their annual McAfee Virtual Criminology Report-which examines emerging global cyber security trends, with input from leading academics, criminal lawyers, law enforcement authorities and security experts across the world-identified the following challenges:

The Cyber Credit Crunch – The cyber criminal is now trying to cash in on consumer anxiety to profit from old-fashioned “get rich quick” scams.

Meaning, that there are now people who voluntarily sign up to add malicious code to their websites, lured by the promise of easy money. At the same time, desperate job seekers are being recruited as “money mules” to launder cybercriminal gains under the guise of “international sales representatives” or “shipping managers.”

In addition, with the economic downturn driving more people to the web to seek the best deals, opportunities for cybercriminals to attack are on the rise as people are more easily drawn in.

Governments are distracted – As governments grow more and more preoccupied with the economic downturn, their fight against cyber crime slides down their agenda, inviting more and more audacious individuals onto the cyber crime field.

The Cybercop Shortage – It is a known fact that police forces on the cyber crime front line often lack the specialist skills required to effectively fight these criminals.

Furthermore, the lack of dedicated and ongoing training, sufficient remuneration, or even a clear career path, is causing cyber crime specialists to be lured into the more lucrative private sector or even into underground economies.

Criminality Concealed – Eastern Europe, Russia and China have become key safe havens for cybercriminals while Brazil has become one of the fastest growing scapegoat countries for cybercrime. Traffic is often re-routed (and often via Brazil) as a decoy causing considerable misdirection in the origin of attacks.

Information Silo – While law enforcement is bound to physical national boundaries, cybercriminals are free to cooperate across borders.

Law enforcement communication between countries remains inconsistent and limited. Local issues and priorities take precedence over global efforts and international laws are being implemented with regional variations that impede the ability to negotiate jurisdiction and extradition between countries.

This is an environment that plays right into the hands of the cyber criminal, much to the frustration of cyber police.

Microsoft’s Take

As reported by RedOrbit Microsoft shares McAfee’s view that the global recession could prove to be a starting point for an influx of more cyber criminals seeking to use their computer skills to earn extra money.

“Today these (cyber) attacks are no longer about vandalism, they are about cash,” says Roger Halbheer, Microsoft’s chief security advisor for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“Cyber crime has gone from cool to cash. And this will definitely grow in the future,” he told AFP (Agence France-Presse) during a recent international conference on terrorism and cyber security in Spain. “At the moment we are still at the cool side. But I’m expecting it to move to the cash side.”

He then went on to add that it is, “one of the things that scare me about the economic downturn because I expect cyber crime to grow.”

Also, the current economic crisis is causing a large number of layoffs, many of them from tech firms, meaning that more and more computer experts will have a lot of time on their hands, but no money. Tempting.

Fixing any and all security issues in software, does not solve the problem for, “Unfortunately the bad guys don’t give up and go away. Instead they increasingly focus on crimes of deception that prey on human vulnerabilities rather than software vulnerabilities.”

A Law Enforcement Perspective

Lt. Rocky Costa, who until recently headed up the Southern California High Technology Task Force agrees. “In fact, law enforcement has always seen a rise in all sorts of theft crimes when the economy goes south. The crooks look to fraud as the best way to separate folks from their money. People are most vulnerable when money is tight and they are looking to save their homes, savings, retirements, and often, their families.

“They become easy prey to the con-artist who has no sense of right and wrong, but knows how to capitalize on human weaknesses. You see the con artist makes a living studying people and their behaviors. They know their success rate will increase as the economy tumbles and/or the recession climbs. Since a vast number of folks use technology daily, it is only natural to expect technology to be another weakness and another method for exploitation.

“Historically, the number of street robberies goes up, along with shoplifting, and burglaries as the money becomes scarcer. Although we have not yet seen these increases at the lab, we fully expect them. However, with the current economy, even government must begin to cut back. When they do, technology based crimes slide down the priority list in favor of these more visible types of theft.

“People need to stay vigilant in the face is despair, holding onto their values and good judgment will be the only way they will be able to fully protect what they have left, until we all see around the corner.”

A Call to Action

According to the RSA Press Release of Tuesday, April 21, 2009:

During the opening keynote at RSA Conference 2009 Art Coviello, President of RSA, The Security Division of EMC, cautioned that the global cyber-threat continues to escalate and online fraudsters are more organized, collaborative and effective than ever. He addressed major forces such as the economy and emerging technologies that are driving the information security industry to evolve and adapt-and how these forces provide an opportunity for “inventive collaboration” to effectively restructure the information infrastructure.

“To combat the cybercriminals requires far more purposeful collaboration on the part of the industry and a strong security ecosystem built around a common development process focused on risk,” said Coviello. “Today’s security technologies are applied as independent applications cluttering the information landscape and leaving perilous gaps of risk.”

Coviello cited three major forces driving the information security industry to evolve and adapt, including:

o the challenge posed by the criminal threat;
o the demand upon enterprises and governments to achieve unprecedented levels of productivity to restore value to the faltering economy; and
o the opportunity to rethink the approach to security based upon emerging technologies and trends such as virtualization, cloud computing and social networking.

According to Coviello, “We must embrace a common development process that allows us to create a more secure infrastructure today. Then with an eye on the future we can ensure that the new technical infrastructure is designed around that process, rather than forcing a process around a collection of technologies.

“We must develop a stronger and healthier ecosystem than the fraudsters and ensure the fluid and frictionless exchange of information on which our global economy depends. It’s not about changing the game; it’s about winning the game,” said Coviello.

Educating the Individual

However, it does not matter of safe our hardware and software becomes, if the individual citizen, desperate for money-and reaching for digital straws, as it were-believes that perhaps this Nigerian Prince really does exist and really does want to spit his $2 Million 50/50 if only he were to help him.

And by the same token, scouring the Internet for the best deal, and finding some that are (in fact) too good to be true, he may pounce on them, not only losing his money in the process, but also his credit card number and other private information.

The same holds true for many “work-at-home” opportunities that only require a small $300 payment for the material you will need to make “thousands a week from your kitchen.” You’ve seen them. Well, as often as not, you will not even receive the material, and by the time you’ve wised up, your card has been charged, your money gone.

The time to wise up is now.

Internet Commerce Made Safe

As we all know, at least during some of our more rational moments-the “too good to be true” deal is often precisely that. But that is not to say that there are no good deals out there. In fact, the Internet is probably the marketplace that to a large extent will pull the economy out of its slump, precisely because it is replete with good deals and true opportunities.

But how to tell the good from the bad?

According to the IC3, the best way to guard against Internet facilitated scams is to stay informed. Keeping informed of the latest scams on the Internet may enable Internet users to recognize and report these scams instead of losing money or their identity information in one of them. To learn about the latest scams, they recommend periodically checking the IC3, FBI, and the FTC websites for the latest updates.

Additionally, the IC3 and its partners have launched a public website, “www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com,” which briefs the consumer about various consumer alerts, tips, and fraud trends. Pay it a visit. Make it a habit.

Also, when it comes to online auctions, and the potential of non-delivery of goods that you’ve paid for, the IC3 makes these specific recommendations:

o Make sure you are purchasing merchandise from a reputable source. As with auction fraud, check the reputation of the seller whenever possible, including the Better Business Bureau.
o Try to obtain a physical address rather than merely a post office box and a phone number. Also, call the seller to see if the number is correct and working.
o Send them an e-mail to see if they have an active e-mail address. Be cautious of sellers who use free e-mail services where a credit card was not required to open the account.
o Investigate other websites regarding this person/company. Do not judge a person/company by their fancy website; thoroughly check the person/company out.
o Be cautious when responding to special offers (especially through unsolicited e-mail).
o Be cautious when dealing with individuals/companies from outside your own country. Remember the laws of different countries might pose issues if a problem arises with your transaction.
o Inquire about returns and warranties on all items.
o The safest way to purchase items via the Internet is by credit card because you can often dispute the charges if something is wrong. Also, consider utilizing an escrow or alternate payment service after conducting thorough research on the escrow service.
o Make sure the website is secure when you electronically send your credit card numbers.

Bona Fide vs. Fraudulent Online Escrow Companies
If you have found a good online deal and are now ready to purchase, it would serve you very well to take IC3’s recommendation and engage an online escrow service.

The problem is that while there are several bona fide online escrow sites, they are nowhere near as many as there are fraudulent ones.

So, how can you be sure that the escrow company you’re considering using is in fact what it says it is?

You must research it. First, do a WHOIS search on the domain. This will show you how long the site has been up, where it is being hosted, how many times the site has been taken down. These are clues. If it smells fishy at all to you, go elsewhere.

Then Google the name of the escrow company to see what gives. This will lead you to forums and other articles. Study them well.

Then, when you have found a site that appears legitimate, travel the extra mile and take one of several additional steps:

o Firstly, while fraudulent sites can buy the necessary certificate to make it a secure site, they seldom do;
o Secondly, you can check at escrow-fraud.com to see if the site you have decided on is listed as a fraudulent site by them; they also maintain a list of bona fide sites;
o Thirdly, you can call the site’s customer service department to make sure they are based in the United States. If you have any doubts about that, ask them to call you back, and check the caller ID-if it is an international call, beware. Also, if the site does not have a customer service department, again, beware;
o Once you know that you’re talking to a U.S. based service department, ask any questions you can think of to ensure they are legitimate, such as which bank are they using for their escrow accounts, and who is their main contact at that bank (whom you can then call to verify that this online escrow company does in deed have an escrow account there);
o If the answer is a well-known American bank, and if the customer service rep can supply contact information at the bank, you are 99% there. Then, if you want to reach 100%, make that final call to the bank to rule out any vestige of doubt.

Now you have found an online escrow company you can trust; register with them and enjoy your purchase.

Here’s to good and safe Internet deals.

An Overview of Misdemeanor Crimes and Probation

Crimes are not all alike. Although all immoral, crimes range in severity from minor infractions to major ones. This is why the law breaks down crimes into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime is called a misdemeanant, whereas anyone convicted of a felony is called a felon. Felonies are the worse of the two, including major crimes like murder, forgery, tax evasion, robbery, auto theft, and repeat offenses. Misdemeanors on the other hand are less severe than felonies, but still carry a cumbersome load of consequences and legal penalties.

This is why it is vital to retain the service of an experienced criminal lawyer for the best chance at reducing or dismissing misdemeanor charges in the case that you are ever charged with a crime. Often times, and especially for first-time offenders, lawyers can get lesser felony crimes reduced to misdemeanors. One of the most common penalties for misdemeanor crimes is probation. Continue reading to learn the basics surrounding misdemeanor crimes and probation, and who to turn to if facing such charges.

Misdemeanors

Misdemeanor offenses are crimes that are punishable by up to one year in jail. There are three “classes” of misdemeanor crimes. Depending on the state you live, these can include a series of letters or numbers. In states that classify misdemeanors with letters, they generally range from “A” to “C”, with Class C misdemeanors being the least serious and Class A being the most serious. In states that use numbers to classify their misdemeanors, they generally range from Class 1 to 4, with four being the least serious.

Even though misdemeanors are less serious, but still come with notable penalties. A misdemeanant can expect to pay fines, complete a certain amount of community service hours, serve probation, and possibly pay restitution. The combination or extent of penalties largely depends on the defendant’s criminal history, the particular crimes they are convicted of, and the strength of their legal defense.

Probation is generally between 3 months and one year for misdemeanants. Terms of probation can include, but is not limited to, regular drug screening, monthly meetings with a probation officer, mandatory employment, refraining from committing any more crimes, and more. Breaking the terms of probation results in a probation violation, which in turn, carries a whole other set of penalties, including extension of probation and even possible jail time. It is critical to the sake of your freedom and your rights to obtain the services of a licensed criminal lawyer if ever charged with a crime of any level.

Legal Information for Victims of Assault

Anyone who suffers a sudden or unexpected serious attack from another person or group of people should immediately take three steps: make a police report at the location, seek out immediate medical attention, and then call a personal injury law firm to file a claim against the offender. This is where assault victims begin their journey to recovering compensation for damages and losses related to an attack. Continue reading to learn some tips for anyone who has recently suffered a serious assault, or suspects an impending attack.

Personal Injury Lawyers

Personal injury lawyers represent victims, or families of victims, that have suffered physically, emotionally, and mentally following a wrongful injury or accident. They are helpful to victims and their families that have sustained serious injuries as a result of another’s negligence or poor choices. Assault, and battery, is illegal in our country. So if a person intentionally harms or injures another person out of malice, it is considered a serious crime. No one should have to ever face a physical altercation, but they do take place nonetheless. And when they do, justice is deserved. Fortunately, personal injury lawyers have the passion and resources to obtain this kind of justice, and remain focused on the victims, their families, and everyone’s best interests.

It is important to contact an accident lawyer immediately (or as soon as possible) after suffering a wrongful attack that results in serious injury. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner they can begin investigating and putting together your case. If you wait too long, you might exceed the statute of limitations in your state for filing an injury lawsuit against an offender. Also during that time, evidence can be lost, offenders can jump state, witnesses can forget details of the crime, and so forth. This is why it is important to act fast. In Indiana, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years, but can differ depending on the crime. Call your local injury attorney’s office for more information about your state’s limitation laws.

Life After a Serious Assault

Once you have consulted and hired a personal injury lawyer to file a suit against your attacker(s), you can then get some closure to your troubling experience by becoming involved in some helpful therapeutic remedies. Look into local clinics that help treat people who have suffered traumatic situations and attacks. You can even get involved in self-defense courses which are great sources of healthy exercise for the mind and body.

Another recommendation for anyone that has experienced a serious assault is to join group therapy. Talking to other survivors about their experiences and how they cope day-to-day can be tremendously healing and helpful. You can meet and make confidants, peers, and long-lasting friendships through these intimate group sessions.

For people who prefer a more private approach to post-trauma therapy, one-on-one therapy is also an effective solution. If therapy is not something you’re comfortable with at any angle, there are still options out there for satisfying resolution and mental recovery. For example, adopting a puppy, taking up a new hobby, getting regular exercise, starting a new relationship, going on a vacation, learning a new language, joining a club, and even relocating are all potential remedies for someone who has recently been involved in a traumatic assault or serious attack.

Offenses Requiring Sex Offender Registration

Florida took the first step in 1997 to make a list of sex offenders available on the internet as well as making that information also available by telephone hotline for people who do not have the internet. It is a requirement in Florida for those convicted of a sex crime to register and report between two and four times per year, to the Sheriff’s Office. Florida’s requirements include more than just an address to register as sex offenders are required to also report any instant message names and numbers, and email addresses to the Sheriff’s Office. A sex offender’s birth month is what is used to determine which months he/she will be required to report in. If they fail to report, submit to all restrictions or provide all information requested will have penalties that classify as felonies. Sex based crimes in Florida are divided into two categories, Sexual Offender and Sexual Predator.

Sexual Predators

Florida law states that all sex offenders are not always considered to be sexual predators, and that for this to happen, the offender must appear in court before a judge who considers the evidence and makes the designation. Even someone who was convicted of sex based crimes, this does not automatically mean they are a sexual predator. There are five different ways in Florida for someone to be classified a sexual predator. These include first time convictions of: lewd and lascivious behavior in front of someone under the age of 16, kidnapping, buying or selling child pornography, false imprisonment, or sexual battery. You should be aware that this applies even if the conviction occurred in another jurisdiction or state besides Florida.

Another way you can be designated a sexual predator is if you commit one of the above mentioned offenses and especially if you were found guilty of having committed other sexual offenses in the past. Past sexual offenses that can get you a designation of sexual predator include: sexual battery, kidnapping, unlawful sexual activity with a minor, false imprisonment, having a child perform sexually, luring or enticing a child or getting someone under 18 for prostitution. Lastly, anyone can be designated a sexual predator if they are determined to be a sexually violent predator at a civil commitment hearing.

Sexual Offenders

he courts in Florida provide three ways to designate someone a sexual offender. The first way includes if you attempt to commit or commit: luring or enticing a child, kidnapping a minor, sexual battery, false imprisonment of a minor, getting someone under 18 for prostitution unlawful sexual acts with a minor, sexual misconduct, selling or buying minors for sex trafficking, or computer pornography. The second way says if you have a conviction that occurred in another state or jurisdiction, you can be considered a sex offender in Florida. If a person has been designated a sexual offender in a different jurisdiction or state, Florida laws will also designate that person as such and they will be required to register their status. The third way says that under Florida laws, if someone attempts to commit or commits lewd and lascivious molestation, sexual battery or lewd or lascivious battery on someone 14 or older, they can be designated a sexual offender in Florida.

Finding Law and Order Online- Building A Legal Information Resource

What do you do if you find yourself, suddenly, in a legal bind? Who do you turn to if you do not have the slightest idea of your rights as a citizen and you do not have your own lawyer? Believe it or not, lots of folks have been caught in this kind of a jam. But lucky for them, more often than not, the solutions are no more than a click away.

A resourceful legal website is certainly beneficial to anyone who needs quick and accurate information about a law suit or anyone who wants to learn more about legal matters. Since people are accustomed to logging on to their computers for all sorts of reasons–to read breaking headlines, check the weather forecast, download recipes, and book airline tickets etc.–it is logical to think that they would turn to a computer when searching for answers to a range of legal concerns.

What is more, a website is an obvious way to promote your company and attract new clients. There are numerous elements that could appear on your site. A full-fledged site defines your company’s mission, explains its background, introduces its employees, and lists contact information. But you can also include several different elements. Consider the following:

  • a dictionary of legal terms
  • a variety of legal forms
  • a directory of lawyers (organized by specialty or geography)
  • FAQs and an “Ask the Expert” column
  • links to articles covering timely lawful issues
  • legal case histories

No matter what your company specializes in, a website can be tailored to cover your areas of expertise. It is also possible to make it as interactive as you desire. Perhaps you want to link to lively message boards and current blogs, or offer the opportunity to have live chats with lawyers. Whatever elements you include, the ultimate purpose of a functional, practical site is to provide information in a way that is as accessible and helpful as possible.

Let’s face it, the ordinary citizen is pretty clueless when it comes to determining lawful behavior, be it at home, at the office, at work, or at play. While we all have an idea of what is legitimate and permissible, most of us don’t grasp the exceptions to the rule or understand the fine print.

Of course, it is impossible to cover every aspect of the law on one website and it is impossible to list all the fields of interest here. But a carefully constructed legal website can, indeed, be a source of comfort and a fount of information for the general public. Here are a few examples of the subjects you might choose to address on your website (either in depth or in a general manner):

  • Bankruptcy laws
  • Accident insurance
  • Copyright law
  • Entertainment law
  • Investment law
  • Criminal law and criminal procedures
  • Discrimination laws
  • Employment laws
  • Family law

It is about time the field of law earned a positive reputation. Your company can blaze the trails by putting up an attractive, effective site that not only showcases your services, but also bestows valuable knowledge on those in need.