Organized Crime and Tech

Monday, March 28, 2016

If someone says “organized crime” and you think of 1930s-type mobsters with heaters and zoot suits, think again. Cyberspace is modern organized crime’s playground, nay, battlefield. And if we don’t change our mentality about the cyber world, we’ll be beaten by it.

So what is modern organized crime then? Terror groups are organized crime, for one. The Islamic State, al Qaeda, Hamas, and others use social media all the time to recruit new members. I’d link to one of their YouTube videos or Twitter accounts, but they frequently change or are deleted. You can easily search for them yourself too since they want visibility. But then there’s this:

 

I’ve read many articles on Anonymous’ exploits, one aim being to take down as many terror-related social media accounts out there. So in this regard, Anonymous could be considered an organized counter-terror group.

Aren’t rogue nations who employ criminal operatives to hack in to the world’s systems a form of organized crime? North Korea, China, and Iran use criminal hackers all the time to steal data. Have you heard about how Iranians supported by the regime in Tehran hacked into a dam in New York? Anything, I repeat, anything that’s controlled through a computer system can be hacked. As a result, the US, Canada, Britain, Germany, Israel, and almost every developed country have cyber units all throughout their militaries. The US’s division is called Cyber Command, akin to the NSA and a part of Stratcom, which is a joint unit of the overall US Armed Services.

You know about something called the Dark Net, right? You should. Technologies like Tor and I2P have allowed criminal rings to thrive. You name it is on the Dark Net, drugs, weapons, child porn, human trafficking, prostitution, killers for hire, and the list goes on. Organized crime groups are behind a lot of it. Here’s even a Dark Net news site.

Massive identity theft through weaknesses in companies’ point-of-sale systems is common. Sure, there will always be lone-wolf attacks, but groups of criminals also claim responsibility. And with how the online world works, they could be anywhere in the world, so long as they have an internet connection.

In old-school organized crime, murder was perhaps the highest level of crime members could commit. But what about mass murder? What about a group hacking in to nuclear power plants and other utilities? Defense systems? Or vehicles equipped with computer-controlled systems? I don’t want to be a fear monger. I do though want to make the argument that organized crime players and stakes have dramatically changed due to today’s technology.

I hate to write this, but it’s only going to get worse as technology advances. Read this article about how engineers are developing faster fiber optic data transfer speeds. And then there something I’ve known about for ages, quantum system development.

These advances are needed to accommodate everything being online, and the data generated. Do phone companies even offer land lines anymore? It’s the IoT, the Internet of Things, which is smart phones, smart houses, cars, weaponry controlled by systems, utilities run by systems, airplanes and other mass transit, and all financial transactions, collectively. With the development of artificial intelligence or AI, there’s also something called IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things. Want an example? Ports in the US are starting to adopt robotics for loading and unloading cargo from ships. TraPac LLC is a company that runs one of LA’s ports using robotics.

Photo: TraPac LLC

Photo: TraPac LLC

In order for the IoT and IIoT to survive, systems need to be quantum based, data need to be transferred much faster than what’s available now, because the more we put into the IoT, the more information is generated. It even has a name, Big Data. Enter the criminal mindset: the bigger the prize, the greater the lure to control steal, or destroy it.

Are we doomed? Can anything be done, or is mankind at the mercy of criminal hackers and organized crime groups that operate in the cyber world? No, we’re not doomed. But two things come to mind, 1) Don’t take your own cyber security for granted. Examples would be, avoiding apps that exchange your sensitive information while you’re on public wifi, using a strongly encrypted password manager to store all your logins, use a credit card instead of a debit card online, and be extremely cautious with emails from sources unfamiliar to you (and especially don’t click links in them as they might be to malware or ransomware). And 2), Change your thinking. The world has changed, and is changing rapidly. That doesn’t mean you have to like it, but if the human race wants to beat the bad guys we need to accept the cyber-paradigm shift.

Like I wrote at the beginning, organized crime groups have never had more success than now. The Godfather is over. Nothing I’ve written in this post is conspiracy theory, it’s all real, and it’s all happening now.

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