FBI Taps Private Industry to Bring Down Hacker Clearinghouse

John Boles quoted in VOA News

When a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, convicted a Latvian software developer last week of running an underground clearinghouse for computer hackers, U.S. prosecutors highlighted it as an example of their commitment to combating cybercrime.

"This verdict demonstrates our commitment to holding such actors accountable," said acting U.S. Attorney Tracey Doherty-McCormick. "I commend the work of the agents and prosecutors both in the United States and in Latvia, who worked together to bring him to justice."

Not mentioned was the role played by Trend Micro, a Japanese cybersecurity firm that collaborated with the FBI to hunt down the developer, Ruslans Bondars, and an accomplice, Jurijs Martisevs, who jointly operated Scan4You, a site that helped hackers test their malware.

In a report released after the verdict, Trend Micro offered an inside look at how it identified Scan4You in 2012, took a trove of data about the site to the FBI in 2014, and then worked closely with agents as they built a case against the two men.

Trend Micro says it has supported nearly 20 law enforcement cases around the world.

"In this case, our global threat intelligence network and team of researchers provided an invaluable resource for the FBI as it homed in on this notorious [counter antivirus] service," said Ed Cabrera, chief security officer for Trend Micro.

The case highlights how the FBI and private cybersecurity firms, once wary of working together, have in recent years started teaming up to combat cybercrime, a problem that costs the world an estimated $600 billion a year.

"The value that the private sector brings to law enforcement investigations is almost incalculable," said John Boles, a director at consulting firm Navigant who previously worked as an assistant FBI director and led the bureau's global cyberoperations.

A decade ago "there was almost hesitation on both sides of the fence to cooperate, but somewhere along the line as the scales have tipped, everybody realized it's a global issue," Boles said. In 2011, the FBI created the Office of the Private Sector within the Cyber Division, making private-sector collaboration a key pillar of its cybercrime-fighting strategy.

Since then, the bureau has made more than a dozen major arrests in cybercrime cases, many with help from the private sector, according to Boles. While cybercrime investigations are often initiated by the bureau, some start with a tip from the private sector.

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