Global cybercrime prosecution a patchwork of alliances

Maria Korolov

Last summer, a joint effort between Interpol and the Nigerian authorities resulted in the arrest of a hacker believed to be responsible for $60 million worth of business email compromise and other scams. Also last summer, a Russian citizen was convicted of 38 hacking-related charges after being extradited from Guam.

Last year, the FBI also worked together with authorities in Belarus to arrest the operators of the Bugat botnet, which stole banking credentials. In April, Algerian citizen and SpyEye hacker Hamza Bendelladj was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being extradited from Thailand. In October, a Kosovo cyber terrorist who helped ISIS was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being extradited from Malaysia.

Then there was the sentencing of "Guccifer," also known as Marcel Lazar, to 52 months after hacking and leaking Colin Powell and Sidney Bumenthal's emails. He had been extradited from Romania for the trial, and then returned to that country to serve out a seven-year prison term for another crime before he comes back to serve his time in the U.S.

Progress has also been made in international efforts to combat ransomware, according to Raj Samani, vice president and CTO at Intel Security at Intel.

The No More Ransom project originally launched last summer with Intel, Kaspersky, the Dutch National High Tech Crime Unit, and Europol. Since then, more than two dozen other police agencies have joined up, including and many other private firms.

"It's a global, international, coordinated effort," said Samani. "It's not just about advice, but about collaboration on the identification of infrastructure and seizure of decryption keys. If we have ransomware infrastructure that is hosted in a jurisdiction where one of our partners is involved, it makes it very easy."

And even when a country isn't part of the project, he said that cooperation has been improving when it comes to taking down ransomware infrastructure.

"Certainly there are bullet-proof hosting providers out there," he said. "This is the game of cat and mouse that we play. They will do everything they can to obfuscate, to hide and we will do everything we can to uncover them and seize the infrastructure and bring an end to it. But, personally, I've never come across a country where we said, 'Oh, they're not helping at all.' I think it's progressively getting better."

Not all security experts are quite that optimistic, however.

"From what I've seen, personally, there are a lot of good efforts," said David Venable, vice president of cybersecurity at Masergy Communications.

Venable has previously worked for the NSA for several years. Now, at Masergy, he helps companies with international cybercrime investigations.

He said that it can be difficult to go after the smaller fish because the global cybercrime law enforcement processes aren't well developed yet.

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