FBI Top Cyber Cop: U.S. Outgunned in Hacker War

March 28, 2012

The Wall Street Journal on March 27, 2012 released the following:

“U.S. Outgunned in Hacker War

By DEVLIN BARRETT

WASHINGTON—The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s top cyber cop offered a grim appraisal of the nation’s efforts to keep computer hackers from plundering corporate data networks: “We’re not winning,” he said.

Shawn Henry, who is preparing to leave the FBI after more than two decades with the bureau, said in an interview that the current public and private approach to fending off hackers is “unsustainable.” Computer criminals are simply too talented and defensive measures too weak to stop them, he said.

His comments weren’t directed at specific legislation but came as Congress considers two competing measures designed to buttress the networks for critical U.S. infrastructure, such as electrical-power plants and nuclear reactors. Though few cybersecurity experts disagree on the need for security improvements, business advocates have argued that the new regulations called for in one of the bills aren’t likely to better protect computer networks.

Mr. Henry, who is leaving government to take a cybersecurity job with an undisclosed firm in Washington, said companies need to make major changes in the way they use computer networks to avoid further damage to national security and the economy. Too many companies, from major multinationals to small start-ups, fail to recognize the financial and legal risks they are taking—or the costs they may have already suffered unknowingly—by operating vulnerable networks, he said.

“I don’t see how we ever come out of this without changes in technology or changes in behavior, because with the status quo, it’s an unsustainable model. Unsustainable in that you never get ahead, never become secure, never have a reasonable expectation of privacy or security,” Mr. Henry said.

James A. Lewis, a senior fellow on cybersecurity at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that as gloomy as Mr. Henry’s assessment may sound, “I am actually a little bit gloomier. I think we’ve lost the opening battle [with hackers].” Mr. Lewis said he didn’t believe there was a single secure, unclassified computer network in the U.S.

“There’s a kind of willful desire not to admit how bad things are, both in government and certainly in the private sector, so I could see how [Mr. Henry] would be frustrated,” he added.

High-profile hacking victims have included Sony Corp., SNE +2.05% which said last year that hackers had accessed personal information on 24.6 million customers on one of its online game services as part of a broader attack on the company that compromised data on more than 100 million accounts. Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., NDAQ -0.04% which operates the Nasdaq Stock Market, also acknowledged last year that hackers had breached a part of its network called Directors Desk, a service for company boards to communicate and share documents. HBGary Federal, a cybersecurity firm, was infiltrated by the hacking collective called Anonymous, which stole tens of thousands of internal emails from the company.

Mr. Henry has played a key role in expanding the FBI’s cybersecurity capabilities. In 2002, when the FBI reorganized to put more of its resources toward protecting computer networks, it handled nearly 1,500 hacking cases. Eight years later, that caseload had grown to more than 2,500.

Mr. Henry said FBI agents are increasingly coming across data stolen from companies whose executives had no idea their systems had been accessed.

“We have found their data in the middle of other investigations,” he said. “They are shocked and, in many cases, they’ve been breached for many months, in some cases years, which means that an adversary had full visibility into everything occurring on that network, potentially.”

Mr. Henry said that while many company executives recognize the severity of the problem, many others do not, and that has frustrated him. But even when companies build up their defenses, their systems are still penetrated, he said. “We’ve been playing defense for a long time. …You can only build a fence so high, and what we’ve found is that the offense outpaces the defense, and the offense is better than the defense,” he said.

Testimony Monday before a government commission assessing Chinese computer capabilities underscored the dangers. Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer at Mandiant, a computer-security company, said that in cases handled by his firm where intrusions were traced back to Chinese hackers, 94% of the targeted companies didn’t realize they had been breached until someone else told them. The median number of days between the start of an intrusion and its detection was 416, or more than a year, he added.

In one such incident in 2010, a group of Chinese hackers breached the computer defenses of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major business lobbying group, and gained access to everything stored on its systems, including information about its three million members, according to several people familiar with the matter.

In the congressional debate over cybersecurity legislation, the Chamber of Commerce has argued for a voluntary, non-regulatory approach to cybersecurity that would encourage more cooperation and information-sharing between government and business.

Matthew Eggers, a senior director at the Chamber, said the group “is urging policy makers to change the ‘status quo’ by rallying our efforts around a targeted and effective information-sharing bill that would get the support of multiple stakeholders and come equipped with ample protections for the business community.”

The FBI’s Mr. Henry said there are some things companies need to change to create more secure computer networks. He said their most valuable data should be kept off the network altogether. He cited the recent case of a hack on an unidentified company in which he said 10 years worth of research and development, valued at more than $1 billion, was stolen by hackers.

He added that companies need to do more than just react to intrusions. “In many cases, the skills of the adversaries are so substantial that they just leap right over the fence, and you don’t ever hear an alarm go off,” he said. Companies “need to be hunting inside the perimeter of their network,” he added.

Companies also need to get their entire leadership, from the chief executive to the general counsel to the chief financial officer, involved in developing a cybersecurity strategy, Mr. Henry said. “If leadership doesn’t say, ‘This is important, let’s sit down and come up with a plan right now in our organization; let’s have a strategy,’ then it’s never going to happen, and that is a frustrating thing for me,” he said.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Seven Indicted in Virginia for Alleged Drug Trafficking Conspiracy

September 27, 2010

Seven men were charged in a 34-count indictment last Thursday for trafficking cocaine and firearms in Prince William County.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Shawn Henry, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Edgar A. Domenech, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Washington Field Division; and Charlie T. Deane, Prince William County Chief of Police, made the announcement after the indictment was unsealed.

According to court records, Yasin Oriza Arreola, a/k/a Tony or El Diablo, 30, of Catlett, Va., is accused of being a significant source for distributing cocaine in Prince William County and is allegedly supplied by a Mexican drug trafficking organization. Court records allege that he has posed as a construction worker—including driving a white work van and wearing a reflective construction vest—to conduct drug transactions at various spots throughout the county. He and others in the conspiracy are alleged to have possessed firearms during drug negotiations and also agreed to sell firearms—including a machine gun—to drug customers.

In addition, the following six men were also charged in the indictment as conspiring with Arreola in running this cocaine trafficking ring:

Jose Salgado Lovo, 40, of Manassas, Va.; Isitro Liberato, a/k/a Joker, 20, of Manassas, Va.; Kelvin Martinez, a/k/a Solo, 25, of Manassas, Va.; Manuel Perez Castillo, a/k/a New York, 42, of Manassas, Va.; Jorge Isiais Fernandez, a/k/a Esquivel Madrazo Aquiles, Chesperito, or Picapiedra, 35, of Manassas, Va.; Angel Enrique Flores, a/k/a Don Angel, 44, of Manassas, Va.

In a conspiracy, each individual may be held accountable for every act that occurred in furtherance of the conspiracy, even if committed by others in the alleged conspiracy. If the government can prove that an individual has the requisite knowledge of the existence of the conspiracy, the individual will be held liable for every act committed. Unfortunately, this will result in a much longer sentence for the individual if convicted.

The defendants were previously charged by criminal complaint and arrested on August 25, 2010. They face mandatory minimum penalties ranging from 10 years in prison to 40 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Ten Charged in Superseding Indictment for Alleged Racketeering and Narcotics Activity

September 14, 2010

A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned a superseding indictment today charging 10 individuals with narcotics and firearms offenses, federal racketeering conspiracy, and three murders in aid of racketeering activity, in connection with an ongoing investigation into a drug organization that operated in Barry Farm and other neighborhoods within the District of Columbia and the larger metropolitan area. The charges were announced today by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., Shawn Henry, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Salvatore R. Lauro, Chief of the U.S. Park Police (USPP), and Roberto L. Hylton, Chief of the Prince George’s County Police Department.

The individuals initially were charged in a six-count federal indictment on March 10, 2010, with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute phencyclidine (PCP), heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine, within the District of Columbia and Maryland, and related drug charges. The original indictment covered criminal activities from August 2009 through March 2010.

The superseding indictment returned today stems from a continuing investigation of the individuals’ alleged drug organization and several acts of violence supposedly attributable to them. It covers crimes dating to 2006 and broadens the case to include newly filed racketeering and murder charges.

The government may be obtaining new information either from those already charged that have entered into cooperation agreements in hopes of a lesser sentence, or from other sources. It is also important to remember that an indictment does not require any evidence, nor is an indictment evidence of guilt itself.

As set forth in the superseding indictment, the drug organization began operating as early as 2006 with Mark Pray allegedly in charge. The superseding indictment alleges that Mark Pray, 29, enlisted family members, friends, and individuals known to him from Barry Farm and elsewhere to distribute controlled substances. The indictment alleges that members of the Pray Drug Organization regularly carried firearms to promote and protect the drug enterprise and its interests; that members of the enterprise committed, attempted, and threatened to commit acts of violence, including murder and robbery, to protect and expand the enterprise’s criminal operations; and further alleges that members of the enterprise promoted a climate of fear through violence and threats of violence.

The superseding indictment specifically charges Mark Pray and two co-defendants, Alonzo Marlow, 30, and Kenneth Benbow, 30, for their respective roles in three separate murders committed in aid of the charged racketeering activity, in the District of Columbia and Maryland, between 2008 and 2010. One killing was of a government witness, Crystal Washington, 44, who was shot to death April 10, 2009 in the District of Columbia. She was slain one business day before the start of a D.C. Superior Court trial at which Washington was to testify for the government against Mark Pray and three other individuals.

The indictment charges Mark Pray and Alonzo Marlow, who functioned as an “enforcer” for the Pray Drug Organization, with Washington’s death. Pray and Marlow also are charged with the January 13, 2010, murder of Jheryl Hodge 20, in the District of Columbia. According to the indictment, Marlow shot Hodge several times, in broad daylight, in the middle of the Barry Farm neighborhood. Pray and Kenneth Benbow are charged with the murder of Van Johnson Jr., 28, which took place September 24, 2008, in Prince George’s County.

In addition to Pray, Marlow and Benbow, the others indicted include: Randolph Danson, 25, Robert McMillan, 25, Timothy Moon, 23, Robert Smith, 31, Charles Wade, 25, Herman Williams, 19, and Larry Williams, 29.

All of the named individuals will be arraigned on the superseding indictment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on a date to be determined by the Court. All of the individuals face sentences from 10 years to life in prison if convicted.

The federal Murder in Aid of Racketeering charges against Mark Pray, Alonzo Marlow, and Kenneth Benbow are punishable by life imprisonment.

Because these individuals will be tried in a federal court, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines will apply if convicted.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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