Stopping Cyber Thieves

By Charles K. Trainor

In the 1930s, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, and John Herbert Dillinger Jr. sent chills up the spines of banking and law enforcement officials. Willie Sutton asserted he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” And although robbers continue to barge into banks using a variety of weaponry, modern thieves often are more sophisticated.

Today, the weapon of choice is a computer. Instead of the teller’s cash drawer, among the prime targets are the financial accounts of school districts and other municipalities. In 2008 and 2009, the FBI reported more than 200 cases in which cyberthieves made illegal transfers totaling nearly $100 million. Only $60 million of these stolen funds was recovered.

Surprisingly, cyber-robbery is on the rise because of the inverse correlation between the risks and the rewards. Even though the amount of money stolen in a cybercrime is far greater than that taken in a traditional holdup, criminal penalties are lower because no weapons are used.

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