Cybercrime Flourishes as the U.S. Government Fails to Respond

By Matthew Harwood

A three-part San Jose Mercury News investigative report, "Ghosts in the Browser," discovers that the private and public sectors of the United States are not taking the threat of cybercrime seriously as criminal entrepreneurs have made the Internet "into a tool for massive fraud."

The third, and final, part in the series concentrates on the federal government's efforts to combat cybercrime. According to the investigation, the U.S. government isn't doing much.

Even as the White House asked last week for $154 million toward a new cybersecurity initiative expected to reach billions of dollars over the next several years, security experts complain the administration remains too focused on the risks of online espionage and information warfare, overlooking the international criminals who are stealing a fortune through the Internet.

"They're still not taking cybercrime seriously enough," said former administration cybersecurity adviser Marcus Sachs, now at Verizon Communications, reflecting the views of several former White House officials.

According to the report, the cybersecurity problems at the government run deep and are manifold: there is a dearth of cybercops; responsibility for cybercrime is spread too wide across competing government agencies; and traditional crime-fighting techniques don't work and top government officials aren't responding or evolving to that fact.

Fighting cybercrime also has taken a backseat to concerns over terrorism—former counterterrorism and cybersecurity czar Richard Clark told the paper—because government officials are more worried about planes exploding and Americans in body bags.

As a former White House homeland and cybersecurity aide and Secret Service cybercrimes agent put it, "[The Bush] administration has said its budget priorities are the war in Iraq, fighting terrorism. If you don't fall under one of those buckets, you don't get funded."

A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report from 2006, referenced by the paper, estimated that cybercrime cost U.S. businesses $67.2 billion annually.



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