HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Internet is a digital elephant that never forgets anything you do with it. That's according to some of Hawaii's leading Internet crime investigators, who briefed state lawmakers Tuesday about personal and global threats in cyberspace.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, the number of such crimes across the country soared by more than 22% from 2008 to 2009. Losses doubled to more than half-a-billion dollars during that time.
Authorities say that's just the tip of the iceberg because not everyone reports being a cyber crime victim.
What is a cyber criminal? Internet experts say it's a person fully indulged in hurting society, whether it's committing financial fraud, encouraging terrorist beliefs or satisfying a lust for sexual deviation.
"This diabolical criminal genius doesn't have to be from a Stanford University, an MIT, a Cal Tech or an Ivy League college," Gary Yabuta, Maui police chief, said. "In fact, he doesn't even have to be very smart."
A quick demonstration revealed how easy it is to have your computer compromised.
Jason Martin, president of consulting firm Secure DNA, set up a normal-looking web site to show his business clients how vulnerable they may be. On the dashboard, he loaded a security exploit, then sent out a spearphishing e-mail containing a fake Apple i-Tunes order.
"Looks like a normal i-Tunes receipt," he said.
It's a $99 receipt intended to confuse his target and drive him to a particular link.
"I see this Dispute of Purchase. I didn't buy this," Martin demonstrated. "As soon as Perry clicks on this link, he's going to be infected by our web site."
How widespread is the problem?
Take Secure DNA, which monitors the networks of about 100 Hawaii companies. During a six-month period in 2010, it detected 4.4 million computer attacks on those businesses alone. The average per day was 31,767. On one particular day, there were 94,593 attacks.
Experts told a panel of state representatives that identity thieves, pedophiles, cyber bullies and terrorists can easily access personal information behind a cloak of anonymity.
"When I go into cyberspace, I can be anybody I want to be," Chris Duque, CyberSafety president and retired Honolulu police detective, said. "So are we chasing ghosts on the Internet? Yes, we are."
"The bottom line is there are a lot of tools out there for the criminals to use that can make it very, very difficult for us to attribute a certain transaction to a particular defendant," Chris Van Marter, Honolulu deputy prosecutor, said.
City prosecutors are urging state lawmakers to strengthen existing statutes relating to computer crimes, and follow the lead of some other states in crafting a bill that would require other jurisdictions to honor court orders, such as subpoenas, issued in Hawaii.