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.

Charges of Property Crimes

Property crimes are any criminal violation that results in the destruction or theft of the personal property of another individual. Ranging from vandalism to petty theft to burglary to arson, property crimes can lead to serious penalties for those who are convicted. The first major type of property crime is theft. This is simply defined as taking something that does not belong to you with the intention of never returning the item or items. Theft is a broad category of crimes and each specific offense is usually classified by how much was stolen or if there were any aggravating factors involved, such as violence or the use of a deadly weapon. Depending on what state the offense was committed in, petty theft is usually any theft of property under the amount of $500 or $1,000. Grand theft is any theft above that amount.

Another type of property crime is burglary. Although often thought of as solely a theft crime, burglary is breaking and entering for the purpose of committing a crime, any crime. This could be a home or a business premise and the law was designed to protect people from unlawful entry, even if nothing was stolen. Another aspect of burglary is that the perpetrator had the intent of committing a crime. This means that even if their attempts were thwarted, they can still be prosecuted and convicted. Another aspect of this crime to remember is that breaking and entering does not have to include physical force. While it can mean that a window was broken or a lock picked, it could also mean that one of the inhabitants was threatened or blackmailed into letting the burglar into their home.

Two other types of property damage that do not involve theft are arson and vandalism. Arson is the burning of a home or business. This crime is always charged as a felony as there is the real possibility that someone may be injured. Even if the building was completely empty, the fire may spread to surrounding areas and lead to loss of life and property damage. Whether this is committed out of revenge, for insurance purposes, or another reason, arson is a serious charge in every U.S. state. Vandalism is another crime that focuses on the destruction of property in varying degrees. From egging to graffiti to keying a car, any offender could be facing large fines and even jail time. If you were charged with any type of property crime, your first step should be to get in touch with a legal representative. No matter how hopeless you believe your case to be, having the right attorney on your side could make all the difference in the outcome of your case.

We Think, Therefore We Commit Crimes

People think, therefore they commit actions of choice. Criminals think, therefore they commit crimes. This is not a very complicated notion, or is it a new concept. What becomes complicated are the processes and actions that follow, coupled with academic attempts to explain the subsequent acts. In very broad general terms, criminal behavior can be formatted and analyzed from the assessment of crime scene, but not to a point of perfection. Assessment, profiling or whatever you want to call it, is no more and no less just another tool for law enforcement. Just like lifting fingerprints, interviewing witnesses, or gathering other physical evidence, criminal behavior assessment is basically guesswork. Human behavior is not subject to strict codification or precise parameters by which exact measures can be deduced. Probabilities can be asserted along a continuum, whereby we can understand the thinking processes of criminals to the junction of potential prediction, but not absolute prediction. This is predicated, of course, on the assumption that certain elements exist within the known environment by which such predictions can be based. It is frequently suggested that criminals form pre-crime thoughts in an effort to individually and collectively carry out their criminal behavior intentions. Interdicting at this point in time would be unique and advantageous from a law enforcement perspective.

Motivations or personal agendas so to speak, set the stage for intentional selection for results that are either good or evil. Evil is the darkness of the human mind that fosters all manner of opposition to the positive and productive aspects of life. It is life negation in contrast to life affirmation. Conscious or subconscious thoughts take relevance and manifest themselves into real levels of expression with a significant probability of repetition. Thinking processes are the foundation of potential criminal behavior. People can be inspired by their thoughts for doing both good and evil. The pursuit of certain thoughts is grounds for criminal activity. People are a dichotomous expression of being on the one hand selfish, self-indulgent and self-centered in nature, yet also law-abiding, decent and considerate on the other. From an investigative standpoint, one can never underestimate the depravity of human beings. Human nature is not to be trusted to an absolute sense in all situations, under all varieties of conditions. Yet, everyone is still ultimately accountable and responsible for his or her actions, regardless of station or position in a given socio-economic context. Of course, some would use their status to place themselves above the lawful necessity of accountability and responsibility. And, as a result of one thinking that he or she can make choices contrary to accepted legal policy or social acceptance, criminal behavior becomes probable.

Criminal actions are probable due to personal decision-making. Such actions devolve toward personal choices associated with power and control issues. Criminals basically commit crimes because that is what they want to do. A person’s code of morality is influenced by philosophical fallacies of belief. This affects the thinking process. People basically do stupid things. The depravity of behavior is most likely unfathomable to most people. Criminals think before they act. The thoughts are there long before the event takes place. Thinking becomes the basis to rationalize the behavior and ultimately blame the behavior on someone or something else. So, crime analysis is probably more descriptive of the actions.

The formulation of criminal plans (thinking processes) begins with the thought of doing the acts upon which one desires. Plans to do harm are not sudden and impulsive. They occur over a distinct period of time in the brain, or “mind”, of the thinker. And, there is a high probability that since we are biologically oriented individual, our sexual drives and desires may influence our decision-making (choice we make) in terms of the crimes we commit and additions we create.

The thought processes emerge in some behavioral aspect, such as physically, verbally, and nonverbally, as well as symbolic behavior. Outward behavior is indicative of the inner thoughts of the person. Interpersonal communication is one of the keys to dealing with aspects of criminal behavior. People in general use various forms of communication to suggest their feelings, value system, lifestyle, attitude and thoughts. From tattoos to bumper stickers, to physical gestures and slogans, people, and in particular criminals, reveal indications of one sort or another as to their inclinations. Physical being is an expression of presence and that presence translates into wants and presumed needs. Whether by word, symbol or deed, the inner thoughts surface and become the outer actions of mind over matter so to speak. And, sometimes these outer actions become anti-social in nature. There is a deliberate desire to do the thing contemplated, whether the thoughts are short-term or long-term in transformation. Thinking is doing, acting, believing and experiencing. Various acts of criminal behavior range from the simple to the complex, depending on the linkage between thought and action, as well as the sophistication of the criminal. For instance, the amount of physical expression required for a particular act of deviance is related to the ability, skill and desire of the criminal. Opportunity is a given factor. From thought to action, the criminal is always looking for opportunistic forms of expression. Desire, opportunity and ability mix together in order that the desired action is executed. The “evil”, as a concept of human behavior, concerns the malevolent things that people do to others. It reflects the inner composition of the human being. The connectivity evolves around the compendium of crime analysis and criminal behavior assessment.

It is associated with the ideation of preemptive actions toward the outer world, while one struggles with the inner world. Whether making bombs and blowing up buildings, robbing banks and raping people, the thinking facilitates the transformation into the criminal behavior. Evil opposes life and seeks to kill or otherwise destroy life. Acting out the actions is indicative of the internal “warfare” within the imperfect structure of human nature. As such, “evil” is human nature, and reflects the various personifications and proclivities down through history. No matter what the reason or suggested excuse, aberrant behavior begins with the individuals and then extends outward into the community of people. Whether minor or major, everyone commits some act of deviance against another. Such acts may be symbolic, verbally expressive or physical in actuality. The behavior may be overt or covert depending on the individual tendencies and preferences. Evil is characteristic of the state of human beings and the nature of their ongoing quest to fulfill selfish endeavors. This means others must suffer the consequences of what criminals do. Criminal activities extend from the human passion for adverse self-indulgent needs.

The transmutation of the thought processes are continually structured around personal intentions, some evil and some good. Compulsion to action generally reflects aspects of the personality, which typically favor the inclination to leave a “signature” upon one’s behavior. As such, the various patterns of behavior are built upon a foundation of prior thought and consideration. Regardless of the socio-economic circumstances, criminals postulate their criminal intentions through their own framework of ideation. Committing acts of evil are from within the person and subsequently carried out in acts of violence, theft, cheating, and a host of deceptive behaviors.

Analysis and assessment are essential in developing crime prevention and interdiction efforts to prevent or identifying criminal actions. All human beings are potentially evil (i.e. prone to criminal behavior) and have the capacity for the commission of hideous acts of aberrant behavior. The only difference between the so called “law abiding citizen” and the criminal, is the “law abiding citizen” controls their criminal inclination. When we so often speak of “what a nice person he was”, or “she wouldn’t hurt anyone”, how do we really know? What scale of perception do we use to assess the inner workings of person’s mind, which we can see or measure by normal means. How do we really know who a person is by looking from the outside?

Since there are at least two versions of every person’s personality and behavior extensions, one private and one public, what do we really know about the people? For that matter, it is even more complex to suggest we know something about people we don’t know. Analysis, study and assessment are essential in laying the foundation for more definitive answers. Crime prevention through proactive intervention strategies is the main objective of this focus. By attempting to identify the basic ingredients in criminal activity and behavior, the mission is to interdict where possible, as well as identify and apprehend the criminal to every extent feasible. Law enforcement personnel want to stop the criminal before he or she commits the crime. If that fails, then the law enforcement practitioners want to solve the case in the most expedient manner possible.

Listening to convicted criminals serving time in facilities may not be the most efficient way to go about developing proactive strategies for crime prevention purposes. In most cases, criminals will tell you whatever you want to hear in order to satisfy their self-serving needs. For this reason, criminal behavior studies may be significantly flawed due to the deception and manipulation that most criminals act out on a regular basis. And, given the gullible and often naïve nature of many researchers, the problem of data reliability is even more seriously affected. One must ponder the overall validity of information obtained from people who spend their lives deceiving others, making up their own rules and scapegoating at every opportunity. Self-serving, clever and deceptive, criminals will seek to justify every aspect of their behavior. Their actions will be rationalized to the extent necessary to shift focus from them to someone else. Criminals are very good at transferring blame from themselves to something or someone else. They typically will assert that they are the victims and the real victim is actually the cause of the criminal’s suffering. Their thinking processes should be of more interest than their environment, personal history or socio-economic surroundings.

Your Conflict With the Law

Laws are rules of conduct that are accepted by the people and enforced by the state. Even this simple definition gives us problems. One of the problems is that laws, like the mini-skirt or a hair style come and go out of fashion. Behavior that we thought was outrageous a few decades ago is now acceptable.

When laws cease to be appropriate they should be changed. Unfortunately, laws are slow to change and society can move quite quickly. There are some laws, however, that never go out of fashion like robbery and murder. Oscar Wilde was maligned for his homosexuality; he was imprisoned and made a social outcast. If he was alive today he would be a celebrated television personality.

Even more confusing, instead of being black and white, we place laws on a point on a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum, we have murderers and armed robbers; we feel that their behaviour is definitely wrong. At the other end of the spectrum we have someone who accepts €30 for taking a friend to the airport but does not declare the income in his tax return. Both are displaying criminal behaviour but we view them differently.

In addition to state laws, we also have our internal rules of conduct. These were given to us by our parents and other significant people in our lives. We live by these rules, though we pay lip service to the laws of the country.

How many of us have done the “odd job” and been paid for it without declaring it to the tax authorities. This is against the law, but we do not view it that way. Problems arise when our internal rules conflict with the laws of the country.

It is not unusual for people who are guilty of a crime to believe that they have done nothing wrong. A man who has stolen a loaf of bread for his starving family will believe that he has acted within his conscience and punishment by the state would be wrong.

The culture of a society will also determine what constitutes correct behaviour. When differing cultures meet, huge rifts can appear and often violence erupts. Both sides feel that they are behaving correctly. In some cultures, beating a wife “to make her behave properly” is regarding as correct; in others it is frowned upon.

Even within the same culture, problems may arise. In a relationship, partners may have powerfully opposing views on fidelity, violence within the marriage and financial freedom.

It is possible that you have been affected by crime and cannot come to terms with it. What may be happening is that your internal rules cry out for justice, but the culture or laws do not require the punishment that you seek. It will appear to you that there is an injustice.

It is not unusual for us to see offenders bemused and even amused by our outrage because they cannot see the problem. We are angry and want them to admit that they were wrong in order to satisfy our own needs. If they make such an admission, they will not mean it, because they do not believe what they have done is wrong.

Criminal behaviour affects us all. When we experience it face to face, it is hard to accept. Often, it is not the financial loss that that gives us the problem; it is the intrusion into our property and lives that angers us and leaves us with a feeling of insecurity. Our sense of fair play and our internal rules of conduct have been violated leaving us confused, angry and depressed. It can take years to come to terms with such intrusions.

I have produced some therapeutic recordings on a variety of subjects and invite people to make suggestions for additional recordings. The full list can be seen on http://renaissancetherapyprogram.com. This article, for example demonstrates that we feel that the law may not represent our own views. This may cause us problems, and problems with the authorities. People may feel that a therapeutic recording containing some useful suggestions may be appropriate.

Juvenile Carjacking Laws

Although carjacking is not one of the most commonly occurring crimes, it is still considered to be a very matter. It differs from auto theft because it consists of using fear and intimidation to take a vehicle from its owner while the owner is actually present, usually in the car itself. While this crime is serious for all individuals who commit it, it is particularly so when it is performed by an individual under the age of 18.

Laws Concerning Juvenile Carjacking

Across the United States, each state has the ability to set its own laws and regulations concerning the offense of carjacking, and if they choose, the specific offense of carjacking performed by a juvenile. Typically, these laws outline various conditions and stipulations:

  • Many states consider carjacking one of the most serious non-homicide offenses that can be committed, even for juveniles
  • Many juveniles who are accused of a carjacking crime can face an adult trial
  • In the state of Florida, a juvenile convicted of carjacking in an adult trial can face a lifetime prison sentence.
  • When a juvenile is accused of carjacking, he or she can face fines, probation, and even jail time depending on the severity of the crime and the aggressiveness of the prosecution.

Because these crimes can at times be punished so severely it is important that any individual accused of committing a carjacking immediately seek legal counsel. It is important for youth to have the support of a professional experienced in juvenile trials concerning carjacking offenses.