How Pittsburgh Has Emerged As Front Line In Fight Against Cybercrime


Pittsburgh is emerging as a front line in the global fight against cybercrime. Over the past year and a half, reports the Wall Street Journal, federal agencies operating out of Pittsburgh have unveiled a string of landmark cybercrime cases, including the takedown of Darkode, described as one of the most sophisticated computer-hacking forums online. The FBI and U.S. Attorney's office helped coordinate a 20-nation effort to arrest dozens of alleged members. A big factor in the city's success is an unusual level of private-public collaboration. The government and the private sector usually are separated by a wall of secrecy. In Pittsburgh, what officials describe as a unique collaboration, the National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance, has helped break those barriers down.

Formed as a nonprofit by the FBI in the early 2000s, the organization allows field agents and other investigators to sit alongside analysts from banks and other companies to identify cyberthreats. They work in a nongovernment building to make it easier for company employees to share information without worrying about classification levels or national-security clearances. “You can't build a wall between us and private industry…and expect them to open their books and doors to you,” said Scott Smith, head of the FBI's Pittsburgh division. The attraction for the private sector is that law enforcement can do things that companies can't, such as obtain court orders to seize computer servers and prosecute cybercrime suspects. “We can write detections to block malware, but if we can help law enforcement arrest the people behind it, we don't have to block it anymore,” said Aaron Hackworth, an engineer at information-security firm Dell Secureworks Inc., which partners with law enforcement.

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