A Rise in Cybercrime Is Inundating the FBI

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Photo by Cristoph Scholz via Flickr

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are victims of cybercrime every year. Only 15 percent of cyber fraud victims ever report the crimes to law enforcement, the FBI says. Many victims feel they have nowhere to turn, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Often they do not. Most local and state law enforcement agencies are not equipped to track down cyber crooks. The FBI is swamped and must prioritize big cases. “It’s a huge problem,” said Nick Selby, a Texas police detective and information security consultant. “It’s difficult for local law enforcement because we don’t have the training.”

International cyber gangs prey upon U.S. victims by hacking their computers to obtain credit card and Social Security numbers to defraud banks and retail outlets. “They are things like, ‘My ex is tracking me with spyware on my phone,’ or ‘My neighbor has hijacked my wireless and is doing illegal things.’ There’s nobody to tell about this,” said Michael Hamilton of Critical Informatics, an information security firm based in Bremerton, Wa. Local and state law enforcement agencies often are ill-equipped to investigate digital crimes, which can originate across state lines or outside of the U.S. entirely. Prosecutors sometimes hesitate to take on complicated cases with low conviction rates. At the national level, a rise in cases inundates the FBI, the lead federal agency on cyberattacks and crimes. “This threat is now coming at us from all sides,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said last week. “We’re worried — at the FBI and with our partners — about a wider range of threat actors, from multinational cyber syndicates and insider threats to hacktivists. And we’re concerned about a wider gamut of methods…” The bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received nearly 300,000 complaints with total losses in excess of $1.3 billion in 2016.

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