The Forensic Felons: The Next Generation of Cyber ThievesBy Evan Schuman | Posted 2007-04-13 Print
The new thieves care less about quiet entrances because they intend to meticulously clean the crime scene before they leave. They're not just covering their tracks—they're erasing them.For years, retailers have been told that if they merely abide by common sense security procedures—don't permit obvious passwords, check audit logs regularly and patch software immediately—they'd be in good security shape.
Although there is no doubt that is still sound counsel, security consultants are describing a new breed of professional cyber thieves out there, crooks who know as much about sophisticated forensic investigations as the good guys do.
An oversimplification would be to compare the old thieves to burglars who make serious attempts to be very quiet when breaking into a house and to leave as little evidence as possible. The new thieves care less about quiet entrances because they intend to meticulously clean the crime scene before they leave. They're not just covering their tracks—they're erasing them.
The reason for this change is that it's a response to how the industry, especially banks, have responded to the first wave of attacks. The reason we're hearing about such huge numbers of cards impacted by these attacks—the TJX breach reportedly accessed the records of 46 million consumers—is that the thieves know how few of them will be active by the time they try to use them.
In other words, because the banks are getting so good at shutting down impacted accounts quickly, the thieves must grab tens of millions of account per attack in order to have a reasonable number of active accounts to use.
Javelin Strategy & Research, for example, estimates that in any large-scale attack, 99.2 percent of the numbers accessed will not be usable to the thieves.
"We're seeing only 0.8 percent of data breaches resulting in fraud," said Javelin analyst Mary Monahan. "Banks are closing these accounts rapidly. They're getting a lot better at reacting rapidly."
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