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Living in the Age of the Internet Gangster, Part Two of Three: An Evolution of Professional-class ..

Members of the hacker community throughout that region now are adapting to take advantage of the latest phishing scams. As a natural transition is taking place, "phishing" is the term applied to online schemes that attempt to lure people into giving up sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers, by masquerading as trustworthy sources.

Pick any geographic region where there is an absence of government and you will find the perfect setting for cybercriminals to set up a home base. For starters, look at Romania and the states of the former Soviet Union where you will find a 10-to-15-year evolution of hacking activity. As a place where that kind of activity is not pursued by local law enforcement, you will find a growing community of hackers. What was once a ragtag collection of second-rate hackers has matured into a thriving community of professional-class intrusion technicians.

Sophisticated hackers have gravitated to Eastern Europe because in the absence of government control, it is easy for these hackers are getting organized more than ever. Poland, for example, has a network of hackers operating with runners in the U.S. and they are starting to move to other markets. Fake auctions on eBay are becoming one of the most prevalent scams for cybercriminals from Eastern Europe.

Members of the hacker community throughout that region now are adapting to take advantage of the latest phishing scams. As a natural transition is taking place, "phishing" is the term applied to online schemes that attempt to lure people into giving up sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers, by masquerading as trustworthy sources.

A recent scam discovered by a security investigations lured people to a phony bank site, using an email that directed account holders to click a link to update their information. Failure to comply, warned the message, would result in the account being frozen for security reasons. The operation seemed to be set up in Russia. To make matters worst for the unsuspecting consumer, the cybercriminals were running several dynamic name servers so when one website was shut down, the operators simply routed consumers to other fake websites in Poland.

Research shows a close connection between phishing and crime syndicates. In an article titled "Phishing: 21st Century Organized Crime," the company outlined the process wherein information gained through online scams is sold and the profits routed to international cybercriminals.

Tracking this criminal activity is difficult because, as the information crosses international borders, it is often outside the jurisdiction of any single nation's law-enforcement agencies. This confusion gives cybercriminals an added advantage, the report says, buying them time to organize, work with "peer groups," and launch more sophisticated attacks.

Internet crime is just like the criminal activity portrayed on the HBO series, The Sopranos, because many of the attacks revolve around extortion that must be paid to protect against criminals trashing a company's business reputation.

Family members operate on a need-to-know-the-boss basis. People control the street-level soldiers, but a lot of the details are hidden so successfully by those controlling the scams behind the scenes that sometimes people working on the frontlines might not even realize that anything illegal is happening.

Often, innocent work-at-home patrons get duped into doing the dirty grunt work in an Internet-based scam. Known as "drops" or "mules," these street-level soldiers are usually recruited online at job sites. This method of recruitment is both very typical and very prevalent.

In one kind of criminal strategy that could be called "address laundering," recruited workers receive packages of merchandise purchased through phishing scams and forward those packages to the next location. They simply get paid for handling the merchandise and don't know they are doing something illegal.

The mules are the bottom of the feeding chain in cybercrime. They are recruited and handled by the next tier in the operation, the mule herders. These are the people who place ads in local papers and on Web site job boards to recruit the mules.

As part of a phishing scam, the mule herders distribute stolen account information to the mules, who think that they are working with legitimate banks. They are instructed by the mule herders to go online to complete various banking transactions. Another part of the scheme involves sending the mules to withdraw funds from money access centers and to deposit the money into other "company" bank accounts.

Law-enforcement agents cannot always trace the illegal activity to the culprits. Even if some workers get suspicious, they do not know the real identities of the herders who contact them via stolen phone cards and carefully camouflaged e-mail addresses.

As part of a very sophisticated operation, runners in local areas are recruited to pick up money and relay it through Western Union and bank machines. If law enforcement closes in on these local underlings, the collared workers often have no knowledge to trade with police.

To protect yourself, you need an Internet security team of experts making sure that you, your family, and your business computer are always safe and secure. The best protection you can have in today's rapidly changing world of cyber-attacks is to have expert support for all your Internet security needs that will provide technical support without any hassles and without charging you extra fees. It will become even more critical than it is today as time goes on. You need to find your own personal team of experts to rely on. If you ever have a security problem, you will want to have a trusted expert you can call for professional help, without any hassles and extra costs!

Because cybercriminals are becoming smarter and more sophisticated in their operations, they are real threats to your personal security and privacy. Your money, your computer, your family, and your business are all at risk.

These cybercriminals leave you with three choices :

1. Do nothing and hope their attacks, risks, and threats donít occur on your computer.

2. Do research and get training to protect yourself, your family, and your business.

3. Get professional help to lockdown your system from all their attacks, risks, and threats.

Remember: When you say "No!" to hackers and spyware, everyone wins! When you don't, we all lose!

© MMVII, Etienne A. Gibbs, MSWArticle Submission, The Internet Safety Advocate and Educator

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Etienne A. Gibbs, Independent Internet Security Advocate and Educator, consults with individuals, small business owners, and home-business entrepreneurs regarding online protection against spyware, viruses, malware, hackers, and other pc-disabling cybercrimes. For more information, visit

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