On June 5, 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that a major cyber criminal was sentenced to Federal Prison for their actions. This person’s crime was the manipulation of stock prices by using botnets which sent out spam; the spam messages served to promote the stocks to the unsuspecting public.
Another major cyber crime ring was uncovered and the members sentenced several months ago when the 10 members of this ring were arrested by the F.B.I. for stealing an estimated $850 million dollars. This act was done by illegally obtaining financial information from individual and corporate computers through the use of botnets.
The whole issue of cyber crime is just beginning to be explored by the insurance claims industry, particularly for commercial policies. This is due to the fact that when a loss takes place for a policyholder it is an act of theft, as the policy holder suffers a cyber-related financial loss.
A botnet, which is the vehicle for this internet criminal action is defined as a collection of internet programs which communicates with other internet programs in order to perform certain tasks. The word botnet comes from the use of two words: robot and network.
A botnet is able to scrutinize large numbers of network addresses and infects vulnerable computers. At times, large numbers of these contaminated computers will be at the command and mercy of the cyber criminal. Once the botnet is in working order it can be used to send out denial of service attacks which is an attempt to make the computer services unavailable to the user by stopping or interfering with user access to the internet. The botnet can also function as a proxy server which will request information anonymously in order to keep the requesting server’s identity a secret, and spam services which supply advertising of various types in bulk fashion.
Botnets can also be used to distribute malicious software. They can be used for various criminal activities and very importantly they can be used for clandestine intelligence gathering. It is always possible that our friend the botnet could be used for attacks on our important intranet-structure for national self-defense.
The best part of this new anxiety that can be produced in your life by your computer is that botnets can attack your personal computer as well. It is highly recommended that unsolicited emails from your personal financial institutions which contain a link to another individual or website address should never be opened directly from that email. What you are advised to do is to close out the email, and go directly to the website listed. You are also recommended to have two strong passwords, and never use the same two passwords for all of your addresses.
Unfortunately, the botnet cyber criminals also take advantage of recent natural disasters and use fake emails address listings just to get you to click on the URL listed, once you do, the malware attached to that address can infect your computer. Soon your computer could be engaged in a life of crime being linked to other botnet vulnerable computers, and in addition, all of your financial information is now at the mercy of the cyber criminals who infected your computer.
The best advice to be give at this time is that if you believe your computer has been compromised, you can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) which is made up of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National White Collar Crime Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, or contact the Cyber task force at your local FBI Office.
I firmly believe that Insurance companies will need to address this criminal activity to a greater degree, and make available greater coverage especially for the personal computer owner.