Does phishing finance terrorism?
Seems like a foolish question doesn't it? But it also seems foolish to click on an unknown link in an email that urges you to "update your account" before making sure its authentic.
One in every 510 people were subject to losses due to identity theft or email fraud last year. Thousands of people click their way into trouble on a regular basis. None of you would ever do such a thing, right? But how many other people have you warned -- or educated about the dangers of entanglement with organized online criminals and terrorists?
As far back as 2000, I've urged people not to click on spam email that tells you to update your personal information. (See "Passwords" and "Online Crime") One such phishing attack in 2003 lead British investigators on a long road to prosecute a terrorist cell in London. They searched the terrorists apartment and found 37,000 stolen credit card numbers along with account holders' addresses, dates of birth, credit balances and credit limits. It's taken the courts this long to get these crooks sentenced.
Do you ever wonder why?
By letting public focus be guided by the main-stream media, it's no wonder everyone has forgotten about this insidious threat to internet users -- $1.2 billion in damages in 2004 alone. Millions rally around issues like high oil prices and global warming -- yes, valid concerns -- but so far, neither of those issues are conducting fraud to finance a systematic plan to kill as many people as possible.
(With all the "global warming" flag-waving, it's not surprising that so few people remember the Clinton/Gore administration gave up control of the internet in the first place -- paving the road to becoming a vehicle for terrorist fundraising. But that's another story all together!)
Terrorists love the Web
Recent British investigations, have indeed, revealed significant links between Islamic terrorist groups and cyber-crime. To any sane person, the evidence proven during the ongoing investigations is seriously alarming.
How much can they steal?
The terrorist cell discovered in the U.K. (Three guys!) used stolen U.S. identities to rack up more than $3.5 million in charges. What did they buy? How about hundreds of prepaid cellphones, and more than 250 airline tickets at 46 airlines and travel agencies -- all using stolen U.S. credit cards. (Another sobering question: who used those tickets to go where??) But that's not all -- they also registered more than 180 domains at 95 different Web hosting companies in the United States and Europe to purvey an ongoing propaganda campaign; hosting streaming videos on constructing suicide belts, car bombs; tutorials on computer hacking, and videos of beheadings and suicide bombings in Iraq. They even provide a hand-book on how to set up virus phishing networks to extract even more money from unwary Internet users.
(You can read the whole, freightening story in this Washington Post Article.)
How many more?
Although the terrorists maintained their innocence during the trial, they were finally sentenced in early July to prison terms ranging from 6 1/2 to 10 years. Hardly enough, in my opinion. You can get that much for stealing a car!
This one arrest is only a drop in the bucket. For each of those three, there are three thousand others all sending out phishing, spam and virus attacks to get their hands on your YOUR contribution to their Jihad. And while the rest of the world sleeps in denial, I wonder if someone you neglected to warn will be the next to contribute? I surely hope not.
Thanks for reading...
Fred Showker, Editor, Graphic Design & Publishing