Cyber criminals getting specialized, FBI says

Computer thieves are focusing on a specific aspect of online crime

Cyber criminals are focusing on developing expertise in one specific skill--such as coding, hacking or moving money--rather than being generalists as they collaborate with colleagues to carry out computer exploits, a senior FBI cybersecurity official said today.

The cyber underground now consists of subject matter experts that focus on their specific areas, Steven Chabinsky, an FBI deputy assistant director in the bureau’s Cyber Division, said today at the FOSE 2010 trade show in Washington. Chabinsky added that almost every cyber criminal is now a member of an online forum or chat service.

“Just like you have doctors who are specialists instead of general practitioners, we have cyber criminals who are specialists instead of general practitioners,” Chabinsky said.

Chabinsky described 10 types of specialized cyber criminals:

  • Coders or programmers who write malware and exploits
  • Distributors or vendors who trade and sell stolen data
  • Techies who maintain the needed information technology infrastructures
  • Hackers
  • Fraudsters who create social engineering schemes
  • Hosters
  • Money movers
  • Launderers of digital proceeds and
  • People, often without technical skills, who handle personnel issues.

Chabinsky told the crowd during his keynote speech that the cyber threats are one of the FBI’s top three priorities.

“Despite all the advantages of computers and the Internet, if we fail to act, the cyber threat can be an existential threat, meaning it can challenge our country’s very existence or significantly alter our nation’s potential,” Chabinsky said.

FOSE is presented by 1105 Media Inc., the parent company of Federal Computer Week, Government Computer News and Washington Technology.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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