The Internet, that massive, wonderful, confounding, invaluable myriad of computer connections, is, in fact, a globally hostile environment.
That was just part of the message given to nearly 200 people who attended the seminar, “Combating Cyber Crime: How To Protect Your Identity And Your Business Online,” hosted by Bob Latta, U.S. congressman (RBowling Green), and sponsored in part by the Archbold Buckeye.
The event was held Friday, Feb. 22, at Northwest State Community College.
Scott Halbur, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told the audience everyone has something that someone wants to steal, even if it’s only a name, social security number, and birth date.
With just that information, thieves working online can create an identity and steal money, or intellectual property that can be turned into money.
Information technology professionals– those charged with keeping computer systems safe and secure– are outnumbered.
The global nature of the Internet allows thieves to manipulate laws between countries. Some governments are corrupt; some crimes simply are not investigated.
Halbur said law enforcement is seeing a trend to more malicious computer programs, or “malware.”
Cyber criminals attempt to secretly install lines of programming code on a computer, allowing them to access the computer without the owner or user knowing they’re being attacked.
The results aren’t immediately apparent, but the damage is real.
What To Do
There are defenses the average business or private citizen can take to combat the threats. Latta said up to 85% of attacks can be stopped.
Halbur said make sure antivirus programs are installed on your computer, and that those programs are kept up to date.
Also, if using the Microsoft Windows operating system, make sure it is kept up to date.
On occasion, Microsoft releases software updates, or “patches,” to fix issues with Windows. If computer users don’t “patch” Windows, they leave themselves wide open, Halbur said.
He also urged computer users to pay close attention to emails that arrive. Don’t click on or open anything suspicious. Clicking on a suspicious email can download a piece of malware.
Also, beware of “popups,” messages that appear on the computer screen warning you your computer is infect- ed and offering to remove the virus. They often download malware.
Halbur said it’s never a bad idea to keep track of your credit report, to see if there is unauthorized activity.
He cautioned about free USB flash drives, or “thumb drives,” small portable storage devices with flash memory and a built-in USB connector. Such drives can contain malware that can infect computers.
Companies can combat threats over the Internet by hiring great security people and educating employees to the threat.
He urged businesses to know where their sensitive data is, and control who can access it.
Old websites may contain openings hackers can exploit; he called for those websites to be updated.
Mike Maltbie, an FBI special agent, discussed threats from foreign governments against national security and economic espionage.
Maltbie called China the leading espionage threat, but others, particularly Russia, Cuba, and Iran, are expanding their efforts.
In fact, he said 100 countries are deploying espionage assets against the United States, including North American Treaty Alliance (NATO) allies.
For example, the French intelligence service was caught listening to conversations between businessmen on Air France airliners.
A man was caught spying on the U.S. for Israel, an American ally.
Persons looking to gather intelligence use several techniques, from simple direct requests for information to exploiting relationships between companies and joint ventures that are simply covers for spies.
Many of the agents are after intellectual property: ideas, plans, manufacturing processes, and the like. Something that a company has spent years developing can be stolen in an instant.
Maltbie said U.S. intellectual property is worth $5.5 trillion.
“Our U.S. intellectual property is worth more than the gross domestic product of many other countries,” he said.
He cautioned businessmen traveling overseas that once they leave the U.S., they leave their constitutional rights behind, and should have no expectations to privacy.
Sometimes, laptop computers will be confiscated at other countries’ immigration counters. They will be taken into another room for “inspection,” and while there, the information on them is downloaded.
But, it’s not just computer crime.
Maltbie showed a video recorded by an American businessman, who, while staying in China, thought his hotel room was being searched.
In the video, six or seven people enter his room and begin searching it.
One points to the American’s camera and says in Chinese, “Is this one of ours?”
He also described “The Honey Trap,” in which a businessman abroad is approached in a hotel bar or restaurant by a young woman who expresses an unusual interest in him, “something that hasn’t happened in 25 years,” he joked.
He cautioned businessmen that “after 15 hours on a plane, you suddenly didn’t get better looking, or become more charming.”
That young woman is simply after information.
To counter the threat, Maltbie encouraged business leaders to adopt “a counterintelligence mindset.”
Travelers shouldn’t take any more information with them than they need; he even suggested “clean” laptops and cell phones to carry overseas.
He also urged businesses to implement security plans.
A disgruntled employee, he said, is the greatest threat.
If that employee knows he may be terminated in the near future, he could take steps to gather important intellectual property to sell to others.
“Recognize the threat is real. Identify key information, and limit access to that information,” he said.
Maltbie also urged the reporting of suspicious activities.
“The FBI needs to know.”