A key member of the FBI’s information security team has called for greater co-operation amongst the general public, as well as nation states and businesses, in order to combat the growing worldwide cybercrime threat.
In a keynote address at the InfoSecurity event in London yesterday, Michael J Driscoll, assistant legal attaché at the FBI for the Embassy of the United States, said: "In 18 years, I’ve never seen a threat that requires greater involvement by the public than cyber issues.
"I can’t get out and conduct cyber investigations until you open the door for us. Folks out there in the information security world are the frontline in helping us identity the threat and eliminate it. We are at the whims of internet service providers to open the door for us."
The view was echoed by fellow panellist Lee Miles, the deputy head of the newly-formed UK National Cyber Crime Unit, who stated that international help is "essential" when dealing with cybercrime, he said, stating that, "we cannot do this without international assistance….often we don’t stand a hope of prosecuting".
Confirming that the FBI ranks state-sponsored cyberthreats as "among our top issues," Driscoll stated that there was also a need to investigate countries which turn a blind eye to when their populace or governments are engaging in such practices.
"Are countries doing enough about it? No," he said.
Getting countries to come together and share data on threats is one of the best ways to combat such crimes, he said, adding that it is this exchange of information and openness that will really address the issue.
Miles singled out Russian-speaking hackers as a major threat, not just in state-sponsored attacks, but in the cybercrime industry as a whole.
Highly organised and sophisticated crime was becoming a major worry in the UK, he added, saying that anyone who can you the internet can become cybercrime-savvy. To combat this growing threat inside the UK, Miles explained that the NCCU was looking to grow its staff, recruiting ‘special constables’ with the right technical skills, but that this was proving difficult so far due to a skills gap.
When quizzed about the capability of hackers to cause major damage, Miles stated that the NCCU was tracking around 320 forums popular with cybercriminals, some of which boast up to a million members, with supposedly ‘ordinary’ people getting more and more involved.
"There is a whole range of people becoming engaged and involved," Miles said, "(the growth in cybercrime) is not a problem that is going to go away or be solved easily."
Driscoll also aired his concerns that anyone who is willing to spend the time or money can get involved in cybercrime, stating that, "it has become too easy". The motivations behind this type of crime have also changed, he said, saying that around 75-80% of cases are now money-driven.
This view was echoed by fellow panellist Graham Cluley, an independent security analyst, who stated that "today there is no archetypal cybercriminal – they’re just criminals".
When asked what organisations should be doing to protect themselves, both the US and UK parties highlighted the role of technology, whether for better or worse, to keep organisations safe.
Awareness of what a company’s threats and risks are was key, according to Miles, who emphasised the need for a ‘contemporary and dynamic’ approach to ensuring technology is updated regularly, not just as a box-ticking annual compliance exercise.
"You need to stop and look around at what your organisation is doing," Driscoll said. "Do you really need to have all your financial data on one system?"
"You will be attacked," he continued, emphasising the need for companies to have a contingency plan in case of an attack, adding that corporate cybercrime victims often hold information in to protect damage to their reputation (and share prices), but should be sharing data on such breaches across the industry in order to combat future threats.
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