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Cyber crime at all-time high, turns to social networking

BY MARLEEN LINARES | NOVEMBER 05, 2009 7:20 AM

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While the Internet has opened many windows of opportunity to research, shopping and entertainment, it has also opened up the window for more crime.

According to the FBI’s annual Internet crime report, 2008 was an all-time high for cyber-crime complaints — a trend continuing to grow locally, as well.

The report showed 275,284 complaints filed in 2008, up by roughly 70,000 from 2007. Of those complaints, Iowa made up 0.7 percent.

“With the use and availability of computers increasing, the crimes are also increasing,” said Lt. Jim Steffen, the Iowa City police investigation commander.

Steffen said the police have seen an increase in cyber crime over the last few years, noting the majority of cases involve identity theft or fraud.

And social networkers might be next.

Social-networking sites are becoming increasingly popular with hackers, according to a Security Threat Report by Sophos, a security information website. In a single incident in 2008, at least 1,800 users had their profiles defaced by an installed Trojan, according to the report.

Some UI students are concerned about the increase of social-network hacking.

“It freaks me out,” said UI sophomore Laney Bremner. “That’s all of my personal information, and it would be invading my privacy.”

But students don’t think the hacking will increase more as the site grows in popularity.

“Facebook is already as big as it can get,” said UI sophomore Abby Conrad. “I don’t think hacking will increase because of that.”

Typically, the hackers will steal usernames and passwords and then attack the users’ friends with marketing messages.

But some hackers have other motives.

Steffen recalled a stalking incident involving a social-networking site that occurred within the past three months. In that case, the suspect logged on to the victim’s social-networking site and solicited the friends for information about the person.

With cyber-crime cases, Iowa City police typically interview people who have been contacted by the hacker, subpoena for IP addresses, and lock-in messages for evidence.

In the stalking case, police were able to track down the suspect and place charges.

Many of these cases deal with people outside of Iowa City, making it difficult for police to investigate.

“It’s usually more appropriately handled by other agencies,” Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay said.

Though records show an increase nationally, UI officials said the trend of social-networking hacks hasn’t hit the university community yet.

“This kind of thing doesn’t happen a lot, as far as I’m concerned,” said Jane Drews, the UI Information Technology Services security head. “But we certainly provide support and response when we can.”


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