This past week the Norton Cybersecurity Institute sponsored a state prosecutor’s conference in the United States. State prosecutors are responsible for prosecuting consumer fraud and identity theft related cases. These prosecutors are really the front linelaw enforcement prosecuting cybercrime cases in each U.S. state. The conference last week brought together a large group of these prosecutors from across the U.S. to focus on better understanding cybercrime and effectively prosecuting these cases.
Because cybercriminals frequently operate outside the United States, a significant discussion this week focused on how to effectively prosecute cybercrime even if the cybercriminal is not in the state. To answer this challenge, it is important to focus on the entire network of cybercriminals. Cybercriminals often use money mules to convert stolen credit cards and identities into cash. Money mules are individuals who are hired to enter banks and use stolen identities to withdraw funds from credit cards or bank accounts. This requires a network of people in the state to use the stolen credit card numbers and to send the funds back to the cybercriminals. The important point is that while a cybercriminal may be thousands of miles away from a victim, the criminal relies on a local network of friends to complete the crime and cash out the stolen identities. By focusing on these local criminal networks, prosecutors can successfully shut off the money flow to cybercriminals. Law enforcement is able to prosecute persons in their state who are aiding the criminal and also effectively disrupt the network of the cybercriminals.
Another major topic of discussion this week was the focus on stopping the most serious cybercriminals. Because resources are limited, law enforcement is now making an effort to focus on cases against those criminals causing the most harm. Some researchers this week presented evidence that by targeting only a few major cybercrime gangs, law enforcement might be able to substantially reduce cybercrime. One of the challenges in achieving success continues to be global cooperation. If a criminal is operating outside the U.S. then law enforcement is dependent on mutual legal assistance treaties for assistance in an investigation. It may also be difficult to extradite some cybercriminals. Both of these issues of investigation cooperation and extradition rely heavily on international cooperation.
Finally, training continues to be an important concern for prosecutors. Many prosecutors still do not receive any training on digital evidence in law school. Cybercrime prosecution skills continue to be largely self taught skills. While it is frustrating to still be teaching basic digital evidence issues to new prosecutors, there is reason for encouragement. Many of the prosecutors attending last week’s conference were highly skilled and eager to handle cybercrime cases. To effectively stop cybercrime we need more of these capable prosecutors and continued opportunities to train those who are still developing their skills.
State prosecutors in the U.S. play a critically important role in protecting consumers. The complexity and cost of prosecuting cybercrime cases continues to deter these cases from being accepted for investigation and prosecution. However, with training and effective strategy it seems hopeful that more prosecutors will work on these cases.