Identity theft and online fraud is an organized crime

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BOSTON - Using intelligence, people and the environment are the best tools to setting up an online crime and identity theft prevention program, according to a panel at the Authentication and Online Trust Summit.

In a session called "Online Crime and Identity Theft: Following the Bits and Bytes," security industry experts discussed the concerns about online fraud and security. One key trick is to be aware of who is involved in computer intrusion behind spam, botnets, viruses and malware.

"Just like traditional organized crime, the different people in spam networks have different skills and advertise their products and services," said Daniel Larkin, chief of the cyber division for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "The threat is not industry specific, the bad guys are not targeting one sector. It's about the money."

The anatomy of a phishing attack includes various levels of organization including a computer hacker, a spammer, a data broker, documents and merchandise, a reshipper/cashier and a money launderer. Highly organized criminal groups primarily operate out of Eastern Europe and Russia, with some in West Africa and the United States.

The money is in selling things such as illegal music downloads and bootleg software.

To stop online fraud it is important to be aware of technology changes and to build alliances across the industry.

"How we build trust and make partnerships work is important," Mr. Larkin said. "And we need to be able to work together to stop the spammers."

The best outcome to stop fraudsters is to be able to send people to jail, the ability to recover property or customer information.

Organization should also repeat what works to stop these fraudsters and train staff and customers constantly on how to stop online theft.

Initiatives to stop identity theft include Operation RELEAF, the FBI's effort to shop reshippers in the United States, as well as the National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance InfraGard program. Both are critical to this process.

"We were able to stop 1,000 tsunami-related attacks and 5,000 Katrina scams that were going around after the flood thanks to these organizations," Mr. Larkin said.

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