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Cyber Crime Task Force Plan

Cyber Crime Task Force Plan

Executive Summary

The main priorities for the St. Louis County cyber criminal task force will focus on online fraudulent activities, identity theft, child exploitation and pornography. Online fraud poses huge challenges for both private and public organizations as fraudsters can manipulate information to their advantage. Furthermore, fraud compromises national security and has the potential to affect people beyond the state of Missouri. Identity theft is a growing menace in St. Louis and the world at large posing risk to personal information and leading to fraudulent activities. Despite parent’s best efforts to protect their children from online predators, the issue of child exploitation is still present, and there is a need for concerted efforts among government agencies, intelligence analysts and the community to stop these illegal activities.

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Introduction

For business leaders especially in the financial world, cyber crime presents unique challenges because of increased reliance on technology. On one hand, computer technology has positively changed the work place, but on the other there have been increased cases of cyber crime leading to huge losses for businesses (Mohay et al., 2003). Even though, past cases of cyber crime focused on intellectual property, governments are now more worried on attacks that could compromise national security. Thus, the US Federal government has been in the fore front asking for prosecution of cyber criminals.  In St. Louis County, cyber criminals have the potential to disrupt businesses, public services provision as well as engage in identity theft and this could have negative repercussions for the county.

Cyber crime threats in St. Louis County, Missouri

In the county, the most likely crime threat is identify threats through cyber criminals; cyber crooks are now infiltrating computer networks to gain access to personal information. Even though, attacks may originate from somewhere else, these attacks compromise computer security and the criminals may trade information on financial matters to defraud residents of the county. With access to personal information, cyber criminals have the ability to sell credit card details across the internet. Dealing with such threats not only requires cooperation of the superintendent of police, but also federal government and Missouri’s State Attorney General.

Other than hacking to gain access to personal details, internet scams are now a common threat to the residents of St. Louis Missouri. With increased reliance on computers to check details and gain information, more residents are being exposes to scams through sites such as craigslist (CBS, 2013).Cyber criminals rely on people’s trust and may fool even the most careful people. In one incidence, cyber criminals obtained information and preyed on people seeking rental houses, but upon investigation it was found that the owner of the house did not intend to rent out the property (CBS, 2013). Some of the scams involve infiltrating the email account and stealing personal details, and victims may not know about the scam till it is too late.

Another worrying trend in cyber crime is child exploitation after coercion by cyber criminals.  The anonymity of the internet has enabled criminals to coerce teenagers, who are then threatened with dire consequences if they fail to heed the criminal’s demands. This is different from cyber bullying, and even involves sexual exploitation and child trafficking.  Children and teenagers in St Louis County are vulnerable to exploitation as child pornography is increasingly common in the Web.  Even though, many parents have put limits on the online activities of their children, the teenagers may not readily reveal their online activities even when they are targets of exploitation.

Cyber Crime Task Force Structure

Dealing with cyber crime threats requires collaboration among various agencies this is because cyber crime is becoming more sophisticated, than officials can deal with. The anonymity of the internet makes it hard to deal with these crimes, but through collaboration among the agencies then the officials can unmask the criminals’ identities. Similarly, cyber criminal have the ability to hide their identities and are mostly caught after large- scale operations (Brenner, 2010).The internet is also characterized with communication across various countries and territories, and the task force has only jurisdiction over the St Louis area.  Consequently, cyber crime activities may span across various countries, with the criminals able to coordinate their illegal activities from various locations (Brenner, 2010).

The structure of the task force will take into account other task forces used to combat cyber crime , and also the organizational structure of these crime units , similar to other large- scale criminals organizations that have a command structure. Thus, to deal with the criminals the task force will include various agencies tasked with coordinating information and presenting their information to a common command center. The task force will mostly rely on researchers to deal with looking for information on illegal online activities, but analysts stationed in the area will then sort out the information depending on high risk cyber crime and moderate cyber crime.  There will also be coordination with agencies from Missouri, federal government, local communities, security agencies and other governments.

In essence, the structure of the task force will first be tasked with limiting the hacking ability and email infiltration of the cyber criminals.  All the stake holders involved in the operation will report their findings on a daily basis. In other words the task force will gather information on the main perpetrators of internet crime, and track their logging details and activities to determine whether they can identify possible targets of attack. In order to ensure that the process is tamper proof, there will be continuous simulation on security details information sent and received from the various stakeholders. This is to avoid infiltration or information compromise from cyber criminals. Furthermore, data security experts will have to ensure that there is adequate encryption of data.

The virtual teams chosen to deal with cyber crime will also minimize the impact of  botnets which may cause denial of service and cause national security scare (Tiirmaa, 2013).  In order to deal with this, all the team members will be regularly updated on the level of threats posed by various forms of cyber crime. This is because cyber criminals are sophisticated and keep changing their tactics and joint enforcement would lower the threat levels. Equally, there will be training on a regular basis with emphasis on internal training and will also include coordinated efforts towards a joint curriculum that focuses on most threatening cyber crime. In accessing the curriculum, all the agencies will the same password, but security analysts will ensure that no one bypasses security checks.

Even though, the task force will have coordinated efforts to fighting cyber crime, different units in the task force should deal with specific crimes. On child exploitation and sexual assault, the crime unit will perform undercover operations to identify perpetrators of the crime through collaboration with the FBI. The crime unit dealing with security matters will collaborate with intelligence analysts and government agencies. All the coordination will take place at the Police Department. Ultimately, the success of the task force is dependent on efficient use of resources and communication. Thus, the task force involves various stakeholders from the local community, government agencies, police, justice department, counterintelligence agencies, academics and the FBI.

Cyber Crime Task Force Equipment

The task force requires preventive as well as intrusion detection equipment, but intrusion would apply when there is a break down of preventive mechanisms (Mohay et al., 2003). The Police can confiscate computers when there are reasonable grounds that the owners committed online criminal activities. However this process typically takes a lot of time to check the hard disks and verify information. Thus, the task force will rely on encryption software to decipher online conversations and online activities of suspected cyber criminals.  Reliance on such equipment will primarily focus on high risk threats, as criminals rarely act alone when using the internet and online communication provides clues on their activities.  All the information will be analyzed in the computer forensics lab and will rely on recovery techniques to collect evidence.

Forensic experts will each be provided with a workstation for analysis of information, but where possible they will also have computers for storing collected data and information. Nonetheless, all the computers will undergo frequent upgrades on software and acquisition of new computers when the cost is not prohibitive.   The use of wireless network detectors will help to determine vulnerability of attack from hostile attackers and hackers. The duplicating equipment will help to offer back up to information, but this the lab will have numerous equipment to handle data acquisition to minimize the risk of data loss.  Write blockers which help to preserve integrity of information, with evidence extraction facilitating evidence retrieval from seized computers.

At times information is lost when stored in volatile memory upon the seizure of computers. However, it is important for the forensic experts to use live analysis, on running processes which may also show the recent online activities that may otherwise be hard to detect. Equally, the investigators will use cross drive analysis in investigating recent online chats or communication via special networks.  The task force recognizes that the threat of cyber crime is fast evolving and continues to pose serious thereat to the well being of the community in St. Louis. Thus, the team will also incorporate new techniques developed in future when combating online crime as both the software and hardware equipment facilitate investigation and prevent crimes.

Cyber Crime Legislation

Many states in America have enacted legislations against cyber crime, but owing to the changing threat of the activities it is necessary to create new laws that would thwart and minimize cases of cyber crime. Furthermore, most legislative agendas are on a national level, with only few legislations touching on States like Missouri. In other words there is a need for coordination efforts in combating cyber crime, between the Justice department and the Police in St. Louis. However, legislations need to primarily focus on St Louis area a different places have different cyber crime vulnerabilities. Child exploitation and pornography has continued even with concerted efforts towards putting an end to these activities. Thus, the legislations seal the loop holes that allow criminals to go scot-free, without suffering serious consequences in law courts.

Preventing cyber crime through coordinated efforts from local, state and federal agencies may provide a framework on legislating laws dealing with cyber crimes. Cyber crime is sophisticated and changes rapidly, and the Attorney General’s office can provide crucial information on crafting legislations especially on child exploitation. Consequently, laws on prosecuting online criminals should be the first step towards combating cyber crime (Brenner, 2010), with the AG’s office also offering advice on this. Even though, the freedom of expression is protected in America, it is necessary to allow certain provisions that give policemen the right to infiltrate computer networks if they are reasonable grounds to believe that there is perpetuation of cyber crime. The AG’s office can help legislators to strike a balance between allowing freedom and allowing police investigations without compromising on privacy on other people or leading to prosecutions for the Police department.

Even though, legislations need to be specific to St. Louis and Missouri it is vital to highlight that cyber crime is a global concern and requires concerted efforts from other countries and international organizations. It is difficult to adopt similar legislations world wide, but legislators can use the CoE Convention in drafting anti cyber crime laws.   In future the convention will most likely have a bigger role in cyber crime legislations across numerous jurisdictions in America, and the U.S. was involved in drafting the Convention (Vatis, 2010). However, it would be easier to coordinate efforts through regional bodies and having agreements with both Canada and Mexico would ease the flow of information and help in prosecuting cyber criminals.

Severe deterrence is typically used to minimize perpetuation of crime, and in this case the severe penalties against illegal online activities, identity theft, internet scams and child pornography need to be implemented to act as a deterrence to would be offenders.  It is necessary for the crime force to realize that there is likelihood, that there will be strong opposition against laws deemed too harsh from human rights activists. There are also disagreements among legislators based on their political inclinations, and enactment of laws would be harder to achieve at the federal level than in states. Thus, at the state level it is appropriate to pass laws that impose harsh penalties on cyber criminals.

The laws and provisions that would deal with internet crime would most probably require coordination among various law enactors, beyond the locality of St. Louis. Thus, it is necessary for complex legislations to be handled at the state level, with minor provisions being passed in Missouri. In other words, passing laws would either fall between the federal level or the state level depending on the sensitivity and magnitude of the crime under the proposed laws. Nonetheless, some urgent state laws can specifically focus on serious crimes likely to endanger the lives of children or the security of the state. It is easier to follow- up on crime under the local government’s jurisdiction, but more serious forms would fall under the federal or state level.

Conclusion

Through a cyber crime task force and coordination in the forensics department, it is possible to limit internet criminal activities on child exploitation, identity theft, internet scams and online fraud. The task force will be stationed in the Police Department and will rely on computer experts to prevent and thwart illegal online activities through coordinated efforts with federal agencies.  The forensics lab unit will primarily be involved in analysis of information and identifying high risks threats to the St. Louis County, as well as preventing cyber crime activities. Ultimately, success of both the task force and the forensics unit is dependent on the level of resources to the departments, the level of manpower and collaboration with law agencies.