On Tuesday, the Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs announced a federal court charge brought this week against a Russian national. The man, 34-year-old Vladmimir Drinkman was first extradited from the Netherlands before facing charges related to the “largest international hacking and data breach scheme ever persecuted in the United States.”
The case and subsequent charge comes at a time when cyber-security is becoming a major priority for the U.S. This stress placed on technological safeguarding from attacks both within and without was evidenced in recent weeks by rhetoric from Congress and a new plan from the Obama Administration for increased governmental and business protection from cyber threats. The president spoke alongside tech industry leaders such as Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, outlining the threats presented by hackers both foreign and domestic, and the need for privacy-protected communications between government and tech companies, and between companies themselves in warning fellow industry members of risks.
At the business level, there’s been concerns following data breaches within the U.S.’s second-largest health insurance company, Anthem Inc., which resulted in illegal access to as many as 80 million individual’s home addresses, medical IDs, social security numbers, and much more. It’s hardly the first company to suffer such an attack. On a different vein, Sony’s personal communications were hacked into by North Korea for reasons of media control and threats over the film, The Interview. This latest charge is significant, though, in that it’s complicated by the U.S.’s own history with cyber-espionage. It demonstrates the complex interconnected aspect of cyber attacks globally, the policing of which, by nature, often require international cooperation, and finally, the financial and business side of the issue.
In the same month that Russian-born Drinkman was arrested for hacking American businesses, a Russian firm, Kaspersky Lab, announced in a press conference held in Mexico that monitoring equipment had been found within systems in Iran, Russia, Pakistan, China, and Afghanistan, as well as elsewhere, and that this could be traced back to the United States’s Cyber Command. The type of infiltration seen included that of firmware infiltration, which is a particularly volatile infestation.
President Obama has in the past discussed America’s cyber program, and admitted in an interview that being aggressive in America’s military technology programs is necessary to ensure security, according to The New York Times. “This is more like basketball than football, in the sense that there’s no clear line between offense and defense,” said Obama. “Things are going back and forth all the time.”
The fact that America is involved in surveillance and cyber attacks should come as no surprise, but it also makes for a more complex global atmosphere given the cooperation needed to deal with cyber criminals. Because hacking and cyber-espionage are remote attacks, it takes an entirely different sort of law enforcement/military strategy.
“Cyber criminals conceal themselves in one country and steal information located in another country, impacting victims around the world. Hackers often take advantage of international borders and differences in legal systems, hoping to evade extradition to face justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division of Vladimir Drinkman’s arrest and trial. “This case and today’s extradition demonstrates that through international cooperation, and through great teamwork between the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, we are able to bring cyber thieves to justice in the United States, wherever they may commit their crimes.”
The other aspect of Drinkman’s arrest that is significant is the nature of the targets of those attacks. In particular, Drinkman and his fellow hackers focused on NASDAQ, 7-Eleven, Carrefour, JCP, Hannaford, Heartland, Wet Seal, Commidea, Dexia, JetBlue, Dow Jones, Euronet, Visa Jordan, Global Payment, Diners Singapore, and Ingenicard, according to the Justice Department, which points out the great importance of “protecting our nation’s critical financial infrastructure.” Financial and business attacks are incredibly damaging, as damaging in ways as direct attacks on government infrastructure because of the potential crippling effects on the economy.
According to the Justice Department there were cumulative losses in the hundreds of millions for both customers and companies alike, “including more than $300 million in losses reported by just three of the corporate victims.” The interesting and terrifying thing about cyber attacks is that they function almost like an economic bomb. But it’s a bomb that the government cannot necessarily protect its businesses and citizens from, because it’s particularly sneaky and difficult to predict and shield against across the hundreds and thousands of companies and businesses, all of which are responsible for their own protection — because government involvement in business’s functions is a dangerous line to walk without overstepping into privacy and free market concerns.
More from Politics Cheat Sheet:
- 3 Cyber Warfare Strategies You Should Be Aware Of
- Anthem, Sony, and China: Here’s What We’ve Learned About Cyber-Attacks
- Can Obama Walk Line Between Cyber Threats and Personal Privacy?
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