Dark Market: Guarding Against Organized Cyber Crooks

According to Newsweek and other media sources, the FBI is investigating the possibility that a foreign entity hacked into the computer systems of both the Obama and McCain campaigns.

Crooks and spies are using the Internet to commit crimes against businesses and to attack government networks, and they are becoming more sophisticated.

These cyber attacks not only impact the economy, they also threaten national security, noted Shawn Henry, the recently appointed Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division. Henry said that the FBI has thousands of open cases dealing with cyber crime.

The “Dark Market” Operation

“Dark Market” was a two-year undercover cyber operation that pursued a vast criminal cyber network that created an Internet forum where the crooks bought and sold stolen financial data that included credit card information, login credentials like usernames and passwords, and electronic equipment used to commit financial crimes.

According to the FBI, the cyber crooks numbered more than 2,500. They believed they were operating in a protected cyber environment due to their selective membership and vetting process.

“What’s worked for us in taking down spy rings and entire mob families over the years, embedding an undercover agent deep within a criminal organization, worked beautifully in taking down Dark Market,” said Henry.

“The business of the United States is done on the Internet,” Henry told reporters last month. “And the information that flows electronically 24/7 is increasingly the target of not only identity thieves and scammers, but also organized crime groups, terrorists and overseas governments. The malicious activity has become much more prevalent.”

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

The FBI is addressing the problem, as Dark Market illustrates. And you, too, can make a difference, the FBI says, by protecting your home and business systems with these basic steps:

  • Keep Your Firewall Turned On: A firewall helps protect your computer from hackers who might try to gain access to crash it, delete information, or even steal passwords or other sensitive information.
  • Install or Update Your Anti-Virus Software: Anti-virus software is designed to prevent malicious software programs from embedding on your computer.
  • Install or Update Your Anti-Spyware Technology: Spyware is just what it sounds like – software that is surreptitiously installed on your computer to let others peer into your activities on the computer.
  • Keep Your Operating System Up to Date: Computer operating systems are periodically updated to stay in tune with technology requirements and to fix security holes.
  • Be Careful with what You Download: Carelessly downloading e-mail attachments can circumvent even the most vigilant anti-virus software. Never open an attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of forwarded attachments from people you do know.
  • Turn Off Your Computer: With the growth of high-speed internet connections, many opt to leave their computers on and ready for action. The downside is that being “always on” renders computers more susceptible to attacks.
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