HARAHAN -- An FBI agent who leads a computer crimes squad in New Orleans said Thursday that, with the global Internet population currently at 245 million users and expected to hit 375 million by yearís end, the amount of "e-crime" will rise as well.
"The problem with the Internet is only going to get worse," Special Agent Will Hatcher, who heads the FBIís National Infrastructure Protection/Computer Intrusion Squad, told law-enforcement officials from metro New Orleans.
Hatcher, who said more than a third (135.7 million) of the World Wide Webís users are found in the United States, recounted a number of e-crime cases investigated by the FBI, including that of Carlos "Smak" Salgado Jr. of San Francisco.
Before Salgado was arrested in May 1997, Hatcher said, he used the Internet to steal 80,000 credit-card numbers with roughly $1.36 billion worth of available credit. The projected fraud to four major credit-card companies was more than $150 million, he said.
Hatcher also discussed a 19-year-old Swedish man known as "Demon Phreaker" who temporarily obstructed 11 Florida 911 systems in 1996 by using a laptop computer to manipulate local telephone switches and make fake emergency calls. He was captured by a joint effort of the FBI, MCI and BellSouth, Hatcher said. The man was arrested and convicted by Swedish authorities at the request of the U.S. Justice Department, he said.
Metairie lawyer Stephen Sabludowsky, who specializes in computer and Internet law, also spoke to the law-enforcement representatives at Thursdayís seminar, and after listening to what he called Hatcherís "horror stories," he had this assessment.
"Itís just absolutely frightening," he said.
Sabludowsky said neither the state nor the federal government has the resources to combat what he termed "cybercrime." Hatcher used the term "e-crime."
"There are no ghost busters out there," Sabludowsky said. "That really causes a problem."
Sabludowsky, who teaches Internet law to lawyers around the state, said the worldwide computer web has created a "new environment."
"Obviously, the Internet and computers -- itís a new generation," he said. "Itís a real challenge in the legal profession."
Sabludowsky said a recent report released to the California Senate found that more than $6.5 billion is lost annually in California to high-tech crime.
"Thatís half the Louisiana budget," he said.
Sabludowsky said cybercrime also is causing problems for the judiciary. In March, he said, a California appeals court said a California law that outlaws the knowing transmission over the Internet of material deemed harmful to minors as part of an attempt to seduce them does not violate free speech rights.
But in January, the California Superior Court said a different California law that makes it illegal to knowingly transmit sexual material to a minor via the Internet is unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the First Amendment.
Hatcherís and Sabludowskyís remarks were sponsored by University College at Tulaneís Professional Development Institute. The seminar was held at the Harahan-based institute.
Hatcher said company computer system attacks come almost equally from insiders/contractors and outsiders.
"Itís as much employees and former employees and contractors as it is rogue hackers," he said, adding that with insiders "itís almost impossible to protect yourself."
Hatcher said the "elite" hackers are basically "hermits" such as Salgado, who had a computer science degree and hacked for about 10 years before he was caught thanks to an informant/fellow hacker.
Then there are "recreational hackers," mostly high school students who commit e-crime offenses for the thrill and the challenge, he said.
"They do it just because they can," Hatcher said. "Theyíre curious. Generally they donít do a lot of damage. Sometimes they do; sometimes they donít."
Hatcher also said organized crime, or the mob, has realized "the potential of the Internet."
Hatcher had these tips
for victims of e-crime: respond quickly; ask the phone company to conduct
a trap and trace on the affected phone or computer lines; do not use e-mail
because it may be compromised; determine the cost of the attack (such as lost
business and legal expenses); and do not contact the suspect.
Written By Joe Gyan Jr. - New Orleans Bureau - 26-05-00