Defending against ‘faceless crime’

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

HOOVER – Cyber crime, the fastest growing crime in the nation, was addressed during a field hearing at the National Computer Forensics Institute in Hoover on June 29.

U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., is the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, and as such invited a panel of witnesses to provide insight for local and statewide law enforcement officials, legislators, judges and others.

The panel consisted of United States Secret Service Assistant Director Alvin “A.T.” Smith, Alabama District Attorneys Association Executive Director Randall Hillman, UAB Computer Forensics Director of Research Gary Warner and Douglas “Clay” Hammac of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

“The witnesses today are going to tell you the details of cyber crime,” Bachus said. “None of us are safe from it. It’s the fastest growing crime in America.”

Warner said his department at UAB is working to train the next generation of cyber crime investigators, and they’re performing outreach and public education opportunities to “reduce the victim pool.”

“We’re providing training, tools and techniques to fight cyber crime,” Warner said. “In 2010, there was $164 billion of online commerce and 2 billion Internet users. Only 13 percent of those users are in the United States. Eighty-seven percent of the Internet’s users are from shattered economies that would like a piece of the (American) wealth.

“These people are getting PhDs in computer science, and then they can’t get a job in their economies. They then go to work for the Russian mafia (or similar entities),” he added.

Warner said when American citizens are victims of identity theft, those victims are trained not to contact local law enforcement, but bank and credit card companies.

Hillman said the National Computer Forensics Institute in Hoover is currently running at 25 percent capacity, training about 400 people a year. He later said the institute runs on a $4 million budget, but would require closer to $16 million to function at full capacity.

Smith said in the early years of cyber crime, he saw larger banks and businesses attacked, but now the larger entities have more protection.

“Now those entities are ready and have security measures in place,” Smith said. “Criminals will always take the path of least resistance. Now there are more attacks on smaller banks and businesses.”

Hammac completed training with the National Computer Forensics Institute to become capable of addressing and combating cyber crime in Shelby County.

“It’s far too common for law enforcement to find evidence of cyber crime,” he said. “Identity theft becomes more complex and adaptive. It’s a faceless crime.”