Follow the Money: Fighting Cybercrime in the Digital Underworld (program at NYU Center for Cybersecurity)

download-24On September 20, 2016, NYU Center for Cybersecurity hosted Follow the Money: Fighting Cybercrime in the Digital Underworld.

The program was very engaging and the panelists brought to the table expertise in different fields to discuss the reality of cybercrime. Their conclusion was that cyber-criminals remain individuals motivated by money, hence the title of the lecture.

Deterring these criminals means keeping them out of our networks as well as making it as difficult as possible for them to raise, move, store, and use funds. Generally, cyber-criminals use bitcoins as  payment method and it is often difficult to trace them until they try to transform bitcoins in “real money”. However, once the identity of the last link of the chain is unveiled, it is often difficult to persecute the accomplices since many times the cooperating criminals are not even aware of each other’s real identity.

Among other interesting issues, the panel highlighted how evidence has changed from material evidence to electronic. Nowadays, electronic pieces of information may be the only evidence in a case. Cryptography may therefore become a big obstacle for law enforcement and many times privacy legislation does pose a hindrance to investigation. The speakers recognized the value of privacy but were concerned about the protection of public safety.

To this regard, the panel mentioned the July 2016th Second Circuit’s decision in Microsoft Corporation v. United States of America, holding that the U.S. government does not have the authority to use search warrants to reach data stored outside the U.S. See here.

The decision is controversial and the panel looked forward to a change of the applicable law. As Judge Lynch noted in the concurring opinion issued in Microsoft: if Microsoft had chosen to store the emails in the U.S., the warrant would have been valid. The panel wondered if it made sense to deny access to information just because the service provider temporarily stores information abroad.

The speakers included Leslie Caldwell, assistant attorney general of the criminal division at the US Department of Justice, Brenda Fischer, Chief, Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau, New York County District Attorney’s Office, Zachary Goldman, Executive Director, Center on Law and Security, Lance James, Chief Scientist, Flashpoint; Damon McCoy, Assistant Professor, NYU Tandon School of Engineering; Mitchell Thompson, Financial Cyber Crimes Task Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation.

For more information Federica Romanelli

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