1 Cybercriminals – Cowardly thugs hiding behind Computer Screens By Randy Gonzalez Some criminals attempt to “justify” their thieving

propensities by suggesting they don’t take large valued merchandise, or they do it to “test” another’s cyber system. The inference of course is that they are somehow harmless. Criminals typically seek to ruse their law enforcement detractors, or any other person who questions what they do. They rationalize their thefts are non-violent and confined to smaller amounts of dollar losses, for which the items are easily replaced. Their matter-of-fact justifications don’t justify the unlawful taking of someone else’s personal or business property. They’re still criminals none the less and a breach of security means a contravention of the criminal laws. For the net hoodlum operating in cyber space, their thinking plays an interesting con game, which they later rationalize and excuse as some “noble cause”. Bottom-line though, they’re criminals like their non-virtual counterparts. When caught, they invent all kinds of excuses and whine about their “victimization”. One wonders, when they sit there all day in front of their computers, what part of their anatomy are they really playing with most of the time? Some of these thieves try to scheme us with creative criminality, like “ransomware”, email schemes, credit card scams and other intrusive losses. The list of types of attacks is endless, as is the maliciousness behind the various illicit efforts for unmerited personal gain. Criminals no matter where they operate do so in a self-indulgent passion to misuse and abuse others for private purposes. As always, one of our critical concerns is the injury, the loss and damages, caused to others as a result of internet criminality. Make no mistake, criminals choose to commit crimes of their own free will for the sake of getting something they didn’t earn or deserve. Make no mistake criminals dislike the responsible nature in others. Electronic breaches of the law are not unlike similar malevolent premeditated street-level crimes, in terms the psycho-dynamics. Some cyber criminals pose a danger to our banks accounts, while others risk the collapse of our economic system. And still others endanger our national security. In the amative stimulation for power and control, criminals will use any means. Like bank robbers or assailants on the street, cyber villains should receive the same levels of punishment. And, their conviction and subsequent sentencing should be sure, swift and certain and for long periods of time.

2 Criminals freely choose their particular criminogenic instigations. Of which, Cybercrime involves billions of dollar losses every year to a global community. According to one source, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), under the auspices of the FBI, in 2007, the agency received nearly a quarter million complaints regarding internet crimes. This likely has increased to more significant levels of late, and represents the tip of the proverbial cyber-criminal iceberg. No doubt a wealth of information flowing through the internet signifies targets of opportunities for criminals. Naturally, what we often forget is that there is a difference between reported criminality and actual criminality, or otherwise known as the “dark figure of crime”. There’s a sizeable portion of criminal activity that goes unreported and therefore not investigated. Investigatively, law enforcement endeavors to respond efficiently as possible, given the resources available. And yet, the nature of virtual crime is complex, with such diverse challenges, as email and texting scams, business and banking intrusions, to commercial fraud, money laundering and market manipulations. Electronic thievery, organized crime and terrorism, as well as other associated criminalities, present unique demands for law enforcement. However, valiant efforts continue, and the law enforcement, intelligence communities and private security forces remain undaunted in dedicated persistence. That’s part of the key to an effective investigation, methodical tenacious due diligence in application of effective resources. To rigorously search for every possible clue, cluster and clamor of activity, the investigative process must implement creative and proactive tactics. Investigators gather the facts and analyze the evidence, apply rationality and reason, as well as ensure the critical implementations of forensic applications. Competent expertise is essential in the utilization of logical deductions. If in doubt as to how to proceed, where to go or what to look for, then efforts utilize those who have the knowhow in this particular realm. The hunt for the thugs and terrorists who hide behind a computer screen is never ending. Sinister, wicked and malevolent, with malice aforethought, the “evil” cybercriminals fester adversely affects us all. Countermeasures have to be consistently applied, updated and reinforced. Vigilance has to be tirelessly maintained. You never know when they might strike. An individual, a group or other criminal enterprises, stay relentless in illegitimate pursuits at the expense of others.

3 To this end, from an investigative standpoint, such activities are still basically crimes against people, places, and properties. So, in a sense, we’re still dealing with the fundamentals of a criminal investigation. None the less, the criminal has taken his, her or their activities into an electronic neighborhood. Within this virtual world, the criminal can inflict horrendous damages to the selected objective. To deal with such criminals, it is incumbent upon professional law enforcement agencies at all levels, as well as private commercial entities, to invest all available resources where possible, in a “cyber unit”. Special expertise is required within the virtual world of electronic anonymity. Upon development of a “cyber squad”, the next step involves the assignment of qualified staffing. The basics in organizational structure and design remain similar to other managerial frameworks. That is, you need to plan, organize, budget, development and staff accordingly to fit the needs of the organizational environment. Expert support services should be lined up to assist the investigative team where ever necessary. For which, investigative personnel must either have the technical and tactical expertise, or strive to learn and acquire the essential fundamentals through appropriate educational training resources. Investigators must be determined to ferret out the criminal by enhancing their skills. Within the scope of “white collar” criminality, organized crime, and particularly those criminals within an electronic landscape, investigating Cybercrime may not seem as glamorous as other investigative processes. Frequently, we forget the impact of commercial crimes (e.g. embezzlement, fraud, identity theft, internet schemes, etc) is ten to twenty times greater than the usual street crimes. For instance, murder, rape, and robbery investigations (i.e. Part I Index Crime of the U.C.R.), while vitally urgent to resolve, tend to be more sensationalized by the various media. More so, than say hacking into the local bank, or stealing someone’s credit card information. Typically, the new investigator will be searching for action, adventure and excitement. Television and the movies have done much to fuel illusions, misconceptions and less than obvious deceptions about certain types of criminal investigations. Comically, we know that a major crime has to be solved within the telecast of an hour’s worth of viewing. In the real world however, we recognize it doesn’t happen like that. If you think otherwise, good luck and try to forget television portrayals projecting creative crime fiction.

4 That’s why the right personnel must be selected to fit within the scope of the unique challenges confronted by an ever expanding cyber world. Some investigations may take extraordinary amounts of time and resources to culminate solvability. Effective investigators must assert a high degree of patience and persistence. It might not be too untypical that such cases might require a couple of year’s commitment. From an investigative perspective, you’ll want quality over quantity, facts instead of fiction and dedication to critical thinking skills. Dealing with a criminological problem necessitates the insistence upon avoiding fallacies of inference for the sake of subjective validation. Without a doubt, people do this every day. They allow emotions, feelings and reactivity to cloud the deduction reasoning aspects of problem-solving. Even though, we’re affected by our emotional influences, an astute investigator learns to balance between the two. Nothing is foolproof except the fool who proves you wrong. All too often, based on a superficial assessment of a crime problem, we falter to the slant of hasty generalizations about people, places and property. In short, we must bear in mind people commit crimes because that’s what they want to do. To the extent possible, we try to steer clear of logical fallacies. While this is not likely in an absolute sense, we strive to test and evaluate our inclinations toward cognitive bias. This of course suggests applying rigorous mental aptitude outside the proverbial box of toxic thinking. No one is immune from biased pursuits to support investigative actions. But, in the overall process, it’s important to ensure a strong devotion to professional training and ongoing development of experience. During the course of an investigation, we want to look into every nook and cranny and leave no stone unturned. In support of relentless acts of discovery, one considers his or her perception of the facts versus the absence of facts. Three points are relevant. One is how do you know a certain crime has occurred? Another is how do you prove it based on what is known? And, for a third possibility, is your theory of the crime valid? So, in short, how do you know and what do you mean serve to substantiate the necessity for evidentiary criteria. For the investigator, researcher or other practitioner, certain attributes are worth emphasizing. These include: self-discipline in thinking processes, lawful means to reveal the facts, bias control, efficient documentation, proficient capabilities and thorough utilization of forensic applications. Networking with others remains essential.

5 By use of various techniques and tactics, the more skillful investigator is creative, adaptive and inventive. That’s because productive investigations do not fit a simplistic template of trouble-free functionality, or “profiling” like on TV. One must focus and direct the scope and extent to which the investigative process develops. You consider how to determine the nature of the criminality under inquiry, like statutory authority of the investigation, appropriate jurisdiction, and lawful provisions. As such, you also consider the issues as applied to the specific incidence, such as identity theft, email threat, electronic commerce, fraudulent activity, offenses against electronic properties, and sexual harassment or cyber stalking. Critical concepts to preliminarily assembling an investigative process necessitate an assessment of expertise needed to address digital evidence criticality and “crime scene” procedures. When dealing with digital evidence, proper levels of Cybercrime capabilities must be used, along with unique needs regarding seizure, analysis, storage, retrieval and transfer of evidentiary artifacts. Additionally, the investigator has to appreciate there must be thorough documentation, preservation and otherwise protect investigative processes for lawful review by competent authorities. Overall, we must satisfy the fundamentals, as suggested by the basics of who, what, where, when, why and how.1 Within the framework of the inquiry, efforts are directed to ensure proper legality in proven methodology, forensic processes and specialized expertise for all digital evidence collection, analysis and security. Investigative processes strive for the ongoing safeguards of logical deduction. This applies equally to the efforts directed toward locating and identifying, if possible, all suspected criminal participants. But, it doesn’t stop there; as such persistence also includes unmasking any and all collaborators. Three key points in the overall perspective can be offered as reveal the perpetrators, restore and recover properties and services, and resolve the criminality of the incident. Expedient proactive well-planned efforts in apprehension, collection of evidence and prosecution of offenders helps reduce opportunities for misadventure. In addition, promotion of professional interaction among key investigative resources, such as people, places and properties, further enhance preventive countermeasures.

1

Swanson, C.R., Chamelin, N.C., Territo, L., Taylor, R. W., Criminal Investigation – 10th Edition, (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009), pages 49-50;

6 As to the latter issue, an investigator, whether corporate or public agency, ought to realize that criminality is selfishly motivated, highly personal, ego-centric and willfully premeditated. Criminals know exactly what they are doing. Criminal nature comes in all sizes, shapes and socio-economic backgrounds and pay grades. Criminal behavior, even in cyberspace, is a rational choice and for the sake of self-gratification for personal gain. Aside from many sociological theories of a deterministic nature, you are dealing with people who want to commit criminal activity for their particular proclivities. With a self-centered focus and disdain of others, if given the opportunity in the work place, computer users can easily decide to become computer abusers. By doing so, they become a problem for the business, the organization or the government. From their lifestyle patterns, in the choices they have made, people who choose to commit crimes against their employers, the government, other people’s employers or any entity in particular. They are acting out their brand of salaciously devious behavior. Their individual perspective is one of risk taking in order to achieve immediate satiation for the anticipated gain. This action comes at the expense of others. Unlike those who choose not to commit e-crimes, the computer criminal does so without wanting to perform the legitimate commitment to do the work necessary to acquire the same objective by lawful means. For the e-criminal, “business” activity means getting away with something, faking a “cause”, or conjuring all kinds of excuses. In contrast to those around him or her, working lawfully for commensurate compensation is not as exciting as taking it without having to wait for it. No matter the pretext, they’re still criminals.2 As mentioned earlier, criminals will use anyone to ensure their illegitimate successes. They can be anyone, from colleagues to vendors and so on. Criminality knows no boundaries or respects any institution. How often have your heard, “that person didn’t seem the type”. There is no perfect so called “profile” of the typical criminal. In fact, from a security standpoint, you should be concerned with monitoring everyone’s activity. We can’t overlook the essential protection necessary within any setting. Security of computer systems and networks is crucial if not critical and vital. A criminal today can operate secretly in cyberspace, a cowardly thug behind a computer screen.

2

Samenow, S., Inside the Criminal Mind – Revised and Updated Edition, (New York, NY: Crown Publishers, 2004), pages 71-72;

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