FBI Warning: New Cyber Crime Threats

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New Crime for a New Century

The FBI is reporting that cyber crime, and what the agency calls cyber warfare, is on the rise. The FBI’s cyber division has reported that as many as two-dozen countries have taken an “aggressive interest” in penetrating the networks of U.S. companies – large and small business alike – and government agencies.

The types of attacks are straight out of cyberpunk and techno thriller novels. Among the new threats facing U.S. networks, including those of government agencies as well as businesses are attacks such as “botnets.” This method, which has vastly increased in the past year, is conducted where malicious software spreads via viruses to computer of unwitting individuals and companies. Once in place it creates its own networks that can then be used for data theft or even result in a system shutdown.

Another new method of cyber attacks comes in the form of what the FBI has labeled “spearfishing.” This is where hackers get a copy of a company’s or agency’s e-mail list, and then use the contact information to send out what appears to be official-looking requests for employee personal information. This is of course a more dangerous version of the basic “phishing” scams where an individual attempts to gather personal information via an official looking e-mail from banking institutions, PayPal, eBay and even Amazon.com. Spearfishing can be more worrisome because the e-mail appears to come from within an organization, and thus may seem less threatening than an e-mail from a third-party or outside Web site.

Computer crime has also hit Wall Street. The FBI has stressed that the current economic crisis is not the result of any hacking, but some investment companies have lost tens of millions of dollars however in “pump and dump” scams. These are done when cyber criminals are able to hack an account and then use these hacked accounts to run up the price of so-called low-liquidity stocks. When the price raises, the criminals then dump the stock from their own legitimate accounts.