People & Money

Anti-SARS: Six Ways the FBI Fights Yahoo-Yahoo

The exceedingly notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad [SARS], under the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, has come under fire in recent years for its extra-judicial practices of extortion, torture, harassment and, sometimes, unsanctioned murder of Nigerian youth. This has led to calls for its disbandment, a demand that was only granted on Sunday, October 11, 2020. It was routine for SARS officials to accost young Nigerians whom they profiled as yahoo boys—cyber-criminals and fraudsters—based on evidences as fickle as unconventional fashion choices and possession of laptops or expensive cars.

Such modus operandi is a far cry from global standards of effectively tracking and arresting actual cybercriminals in other parts of the world. The Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], the United States’ domestic intelligence service, is a model agency for developing a proper system of tackling the epidemic of cyber-crime costing the global economy $6 trillion.

Focus on the Top Criminals

In recent years, cyber criminals are known to work in coordinated mafia-like groups to plan major attacks. This means they tend to have a functional network of hackers who, very often, know each other personally and then build up their networks by contacting other programmers who would be of use to their operations. This is according to E.R Leukfeldt, a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement, and Thomas Holt, a professor of criminal justice at the Michigan State University. The FBI’s Cyber’s Most Wanted list contains top cybercriminals who have connections to underground networks. The arrest of one top criminal translates to information on how to arrest so many others operating in the dark web.

Also Read: #EndSARS: Nigerian Corporations, Foreign Celebrities Donate to Movement

Collaborate with the Private Sector

The FBI has a detailed history of collaborating with the private sector to combat cybercrime. By the turn of the millennium, cybercrime had become a major global problem which intelligence agencies were rushing to find a response to. In a 2001 address of House Committee on the Judiciary Sub-Committee on Crime, the then-Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI, Thomas T. Kubic, notably remarked that “It is only with the effective coordination and cooperation between all levels of government and private sector companies that efforts to combat cybercrimes will succeed.” The FBI often sources its intelligence about the latest hacking initiatives from private companies who inform the bureau of attacking attempts they suffered. Many major enterprises have invested in cybersecurity [Microsoft spends $1 billion on cyber security every year]; this affords them the resources with which to analyze new malware undiscovered by the FBI. By sharing their analysis with the FBI, they help it to track criminals faster.

Invest in IT Specialists

This would appear to be a no-brainer, were Nigeria not placing its trust in tackling cybersecurity in the hands of gun-wielding field agents. According to the FBI’s website, it has specially-trained “cyber squads” in 56 field offices across America. The FBI has a well-structured Information and Technology Branch with three divisions and 1,800 employees who are dedicated to developing innovative technology for agents and professionals in tackling high-tech criminals. In 2014, it embarked on an aggressive campaign to fill its offices with cyber special agents. As part of its goal towards modernizing the agency for the 21st century’s demands, it prioritizes employees with cyber expertise as they are well-equipped to protect “the American people from the rapidly evolving cyber threat”.

Collaborate with Foreign Agencies

“No one country, no one company and no one agency can stop cybercrime,” said former FBI Director Robert Mueller. The highest level cybercrimes tend to involve multiple players across borders and this could make it difficult to dismantle a network whose crimes supersede the jurisdiction of a single agency. This is why the FBI often works with the intelligence agencies of other countries to tackle such problems in unison. In 2014, the FBI participated in Operation Tovar, a multinational collaboration involving South Africa, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Ukraine and a host of other countries and private organizations. Operation Tovar was aimed at dismantling the Gameover Zeus botnet believed to have been used in bank fraud and a ransomware that laundered over $27 million worth of bitcoin in just 3 months. In 2010, the FBI pooled resources with the Netherlands, Ukraine and the United Kingdom to take down an international organized cybercrime operation which stole $70 million from victims across countries.

Also Read: CBN Launches Cyber-Security Campaign

Request for Civilian Intervention

Another method the FBI uses, sometimes as a desperate measure, is to announce a bounty on notorious cybercriminals who have thus far eluded arrest. Despite the success of Operation Tovar, Gameover Zeus botnet’s creator, the Russian hacker Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev remains at large. As at 2017, the FBI had thrown the hunt for him open to the public: placing a $3 million bounty for his arrest. Similarly, the FBI placed a $5 million bounty on the Ukraine-born malicious software creator Maksim Viktorovich Yakubets.

Develop Strong Data Breach Reporting Structure

The FBI requires every individual or organization who suspects they have become victims of a data breach to immediately file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center [IC3]. In 2019, the IC3 received 467,371 complaints, with losses exceeding $3.5 billion. There is a CyWatch unit dedicated to 24/7 monitoring of all data breach incidents and provide swift responses. This allows the bureau to act fast and possibly help recover lost funds. The IC3’s Recovery Asset Team [RAT] was established to help recover these funds; in 2019 RAT reported an impressive 79% return rate of reported losses.

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