The FBI has recently started making arrests in connection with an alleged ring of cyber-criminals said to be connected to a crime spree that netted nearly $850 million over the course of two years, and they used a rather unlikely tool to make their arrests: Facebook (News - Alert).
Starting back in October of 2010, the FBI had begun targeting certain Facebook users throughout the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as a string of countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Peru and even New Zealand, who the FBI believed were using a botnet--a collection of computers acting together, often without the owners' knowledge or consent--to steal credit card and banking information, as well as other personally-identifiable information, from a series of victims. Facebook in turn provided information to authorities about the personally-identifiable information of the suspects, which in turn helped lead to arrests.
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This particular attack, meanwhile, was said to be launched by an illicit network of fully 11 million computer systems using multiple variants of malicious software, and the arrests reportedly involved the cooperation of several police agencies around the globe thanks to the widely dispersed nature of the alleged cyber-criminals.
While this one has been seemingly put to rest, there are many others out there like them, which is why it's so interesting to note that Facebook is also being used as a system to prevent and solve crimes on more than just the cyber-crime front. For instance, the Lothian and Borders Police in Scotland gave users the ability to report crimes in their area via Facebook, and in India, the Delhi Traffic Police's Facebook page is widely used to both report and upload evidence of driving that poses a larger threat to the community.
For the most part, many cyber-crimes can actually be protected against by regular users, as the bulk of such crimes fall into the "phishing" category in which unauthorized users attempt to get personal information like account numbers and passwords from their victims, and this can be protected against with careful consideration of how much information is released as well as the equally careful modulation of privacy settings on social networking sites. Proper anti-virus software, of which there is essentially a glut in the market, will go a long way toward providing protection as well, as long as it's kept properly up to date.
Cyber-crimes like these can be protected against with diligence and care, so all those who would engage in such practices are likely to see representatives of their area's law enforcement bodies before it's all said and done.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman