Article written by: Dr Apinun Tunpan, (intERLab, AIT Researcher)
Mindful of the web-based transnational crime problem, the Internet Education and Research Lab (intERLab) of the Asian Institute of Technology AIT), along with Asia Pacific Network Information Center (APNIC), recently jointly hosted a half-day international seminar on understanding the “Underground Economy” of the Internet. This event formed a part of a larger four-day intensive workshop on “Internet Crimes: Prevention, Detection and Investigation,” held from 16-19 October at the intERLab Center on the campus of AIT, located 42-km north of Bangkok.
Invited seminar speakers and expert trainers, who were instructors to the larger workshop, came from prominent international organizations that either participate in or have certain roles on the well-being of the Internet. According to Professor Kanchana Kanchanasut, Director of intERLab, the seminar and workshop aimed to educate and develop practitioners’ capabilities to battle against today’s very prevalent incidents of cyber crime.
The President of the Asian Institute of Technology, Prof. Said Irandoust, in his opening remarks, commented on the relevance and importance of the AIT event saying: “This seminar / workshop provides a venue for exchange of information on Internet crime, the sophisticated methods used by cyber criminals, and the techniques at our disposal to tackle, reduce and stop it.”
A panel discussion moderated by Ms. Miwa Fujii, of Australia’s Asia Pacific Network Information Center (APNIC), included international expert participants Mr. John Crain, Chief Technical Officer, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN); Mr. Ammar Jaffri, Pakistani Federal Investigative Agency; Mr. Chris Horsley, Japan Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center (JPCERT/CC); and American Ryan Connolly, Team Cymru.
Panelists told the large AIT audience that collaboration among Internet criminals has, in-fact, exceeded that of law enforcement officials. To gain an equal foothold, Internet network service providers, law enforcement agencies, and national governments need to collaborate. Information exchange is necessary to take action against cyber crime elements, the experts agreed.
Given the planet’s high degree of Internet connectivity, no single country is immune from illicit internet activity, one expert said, emphasizing that fact that any cyber crime occurring in an Internet-connected country immediately becomes a problem for all other countries.
To set the tone for the week, an opening-day presentation on the "Underground Economy" by American Ryan Connolly, from TeamCymru, revealed the dark but stunning side of underground Internet economy. Mr. Connolly highlighted the different forms of Internet crime, the manner in which the crimes are committed, and the ways in which different governments as well as organizational bodies could help better control and prevent such incidences from occurring.
“Information assets are actively stolen and traded to make real or cyber money. With the vast power and connectivity of the Internet, any corporate organizations, government units and individuals can be victimized,” Mr. Connolly cautioned.
He added that without a person’s consent (and often without your awareness), your spyware/virus-infected computers can be a part of the so-called ‘bot-nets’ that someone else has control over. Valuable information items such as bank accounts, credit card numbers, passwords, identification numbers, and even Skype or other voice-over IP accounts can easily be stolen and then traded by cyber criminals. Amazingly, these cyber criminals have openly established their own communities to collaborate, including a market to exchange stolen information assets. Astonishingly, they even have a rating system in place to identify who has a good or bad reputation regarding underground deals.
Probing this subject in more depth and detail, the intERLab-hosted workshop “Internet Crimes: Prevention, Detection and Investigation” provided a venue for extensive exchange of information on Internet crime. Over twenty participants learned the sophisticated methods used by cyber criminals. They also learned specific techniques to thwart them.
The workshop focused on technical concepts and hands-on practice with specific Internet security tools. Topics included a discussion on the anatomy of a network attack including Botnets, Malware, DDoS attacks, and Spam. One case study exercise involved tracking and identifying web attackers using domain names and IP addresses, which must be safeguarded at all costs, advised John Crain, Chief Technical Officer of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). “Domain names are the key to your network, and must be protected.”
Law enforcement agency officials, security officers from financial institutions targeted by Internet crime, systems and network administrators, as well as technical staff members who manage or support networked information systems of internet service providers were amongst those who attended the workshop.
Internet security specialists at the workshop said that although enforcement and user education are playing an important role in the fight against Internet crime, they still face an uphill battle. However, improved communication between administrators and information technology people offers hope for better protection. Corporate administrators and managers need to understand the value and function of an incident response in order to support the technical people, the intERLab trainers said. An effective response system requires some level of awareness, cooperation, and support from every employee. Training staff on how to recognize potential incidents and react appropriately is a vital step in creating a successful incident response program. Ultimately, it is this type vigilance that will offer protection from those doing us harm through on the Internet, trainers said.
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