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To Catch a Thief

International Cyber Crime is not limited to the idle rich on the French Riviera

September 14, 2015


Donald Trump sent a note to the Chinese Government asking for the release of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails, in an urban legend jest floating around the Internet.  This jest was not far from truth. 

Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledges that his email has been hacked by Russia and China.  Washington Post reported that China hacked into the federal government’s network, the largest breach of federal employee data in years.  White House and State Department systems have been compromised by Russian cyber espionage. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter described an attack on the Pentagon this year, which was stunningly similar to the Russian cyber hack on the White House and State Department; and last month the Joint Chiefs were hacked by Russia.    

President Obama struggles with cyber threats on the federal government and on American businesses.  He repeatedly promises to ramp up efforts against cyber attacks, claiming aggressive confrontation will happen. It does not. Chinese and Russians hack into our government agencies.  The Administration bragged about containing North Korean cyber threats, until North Korea hacked Sony.   Last year the Administration indicted some Chinese military officers for cyber theft.  There was no chance China would turn over the officers.

Jey Johnson, Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, leads the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC).  It is the government hub for cybersecurity information sharing, incident response, and coordination.   NCCIC manages the Einstein program which identifies malicious ware and assists victims of attacks and much more.  Johnson asks for a national data breach reporting system, and enhanced prison sentences of cyber criminals.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible to monitor cyber security of government agencies, such as the State Department, which are required to submit monthly reports.  According to documents released to FOX News under the Freedom of Information Act, the private email server that Hillary Clinton used as Secretary of State was never listed in the DHS monthly reports.  There has been an evolution of reasons from the former Secretary as to why her server was kept secret from the Government.  Reuters found many emails sent by foreign governments to the private server, some marked “For Hillary’s Eyes Only”.

Worldwide theft from SpyEye, a cyber malware, is estimated at $4 billion by Middle Eastern media.  US authorities believe that SpyEye has been responsible for theft of $100 million.  SpyEye was created by cyber criminals Aleksandr Andreevick Panin (Russian) and Hamza Bendellakj (Algerian).   

Hamza is viewed as a Middle Eastern Robin Hood, with western nations playing Prince John.   He shares the some of the stolen bounty with anti Israeli Palestinian and African non government organizations, and claims that his hacking has taken over some Israeli government sites.   Hamza’s boast regarding Israel is possible, however the hack was likely minimally successful. 

Israel is the center of global cyber security innovation, antivirus software and major cyber defense technologies.   Many major IT companies work with Dudu Mimran, IT Chairman at Ben Gurion University (BGU), and have research facilities in Israel.   Fortune Magazine accords Israel as a cyber powerhouse of talent.  Microsoft, Google, and Deutsche Telecom are among the international corporations doing major cyber research with BGU. 

Like a James Bond movie spanning years, Interpol embarked on separate worldwide chases for Aleksandr and for Hamza.  SpyEye advertised on an invitation only web site where criminals trade stolen data, server credentials, email addresses, attack tools, and other malware.  Interpol used undercover networks to purchase SpyEye.  They traced the server to Atlanta, Georgia, and spots around the world before hitting the Russian server.  There is no extradition agreement with Russia.  Interpol waited.  Aleksandr Panin visited a friend in the Dominican Republican where he was arrested and extradited to the US.  He pled guilty to cyber criminal activities, and awaits sentencing.  

Algerian hacker Hamza Bendelladj was arrested by Interpol in Thailand when he traveled between Malaysia and Egypt.  He was extradited to the US, pled guilty to criminal cyber activities, and awaits sentencing.  Middle Eastern social media and television put forth false claims that Hamza has been sentenced to death; with implications that Israel is behind the death sentence.  The US Ambassador to Algeria has unsuccessfully countered the false claims. Today angry protestors march with hand written signs demanding that authorities save Hamza’s life.  

Either of these criminals would be capable of tapping into Hillary’s secret server to gain information regarding Benghazi, donations to the Clinton Foundation, speaking fees to Bill Clinton from foreign governments, classified and non classified information during her tenure as Secretary of State; garner the emails that have been “wiped”, and more.   

Cat burglars have become cyber thieves.  International crime is not limited to the idle rich on the French Riviera.  Criminals are not glamorous rogues like Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, but secret individual villains and evil nations.  Alfred Hitchcock’s role could be played by Dudu Mimran; and cyber cat burglars like Aleksandr and Hamza could help to catch a thief.

Copyright ©2015



Darlene Casella was before retirement an English teacher, a stockbroker, and president/owner of a small corporation.  She lives in La Quinta, California and can be reached at darlenecasella @ msn.com

 


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