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With information and commerce reaching out to a global community and economy through the Internet, criminals from Russia, China and the United States are committing cybercrimes, raiding every computer system to which they can gain access.
Cybercrimes consist of all criminal offenses committed with the aid of communication devices in a network, including telephone and mobile devices. The most commonly used tool for this is “malware”—malicious software—through which criminals can conduct simple operations to steal money, credit card information or extremely complex programming capable of hijacking vital business data worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Even more disturbing is malware’s capability to attack important computer systems of government infrastructure and militaries worldwide.
China has already gained a dangerous reputation in the computer world. In a report made by Symantec, an industry leader in Internet and computer security, Beijing was home to the world’s largest collection of computers tainted with malicious software at the end of 2006.
Allegedly, attacks upon the computers of U.S. government officials have been carried out by individuals within China. In 2006, the office computers of congressmen Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) and Christopher Smith (R-New Jersey) were hacked into. The FBI concluded it was likely that China had targeted the computers due to files Rep. Wolf kept on Chinese dissidents.
Cybercrime circles also include Russia, where St. Petersburg, its second-largest city, is home to one of the world’s most lucrative cybercriminal operations. Dubbed “Rock Phish,” the operation is believed to be stealing close to $100 million dollars per year from U.S. banks such as Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual.
Russia has also been suspected of computer attacks on government websites in Estonia and during the recent Georgia-South Ossetia conflict. While it has been disproven that Russian government agencies had any direct involvement with the attacks, banks, newspapers, and various companies and government ministries were shut down. Large networks of “botnet”—hijacked—computers simultaneously logged onto their websites, repeatedly overloading them.
This same technique was used during the fighting between Georgian and Russian troops. Catalogues of Internet activity showed that portions of the online attacks upon Georgia’s government computer systems came from servers owned by Rostelecom and Comstar—both Russian state-operated firms.
Don Jackson, a researcher with Internet security firm SecureWorks, told The Register, “…we know that the Russian government controls those servers theoretically, if they have not been ‘pwned’ [hacked or owned] by somebody else.”
The United States has led the world in technology, leading to the Internet. Likewise, it also leads the world in Internet crime. The U.S. Department of Justice released information about an international hacking ring that intercepted close to 40 million credit and debit cards numbers from major U.S. retailers. The numbers were then used to withdraw tens of thousands of dollars at a time, which were laundered through banks in Eastern Europe.
Cybercrime has risen to epidemic proportions to the point that the U.S. government has potentially surrendered parts of constitutionally protected rights in select cases in order to combat cybercrime worldwide. The nation signed the Council of Europe’s “Convention on Cybercrime”—an international treaty that would allow law enforcement officials around the globe nearly unlimited access to Internet provider information at any time.
Why are cybercrime attacks growing so quickly? One expert, Bill Pennington of White Hat Securities, connected it to large amounts of trained computer experts being unemployed in their countries or underemployed. “If you are in Russia or China,” he stated, “and you have a computer science degree, you can either go to work for nothing or you can make money using your skills for nefarious purposes.”