In Oklahoma, Businesses and LEOs Fight Cybercrime

As crimes change, new collaborations form between corporate investigation teams and authorities

Jul. 23--In a small, dimly lit computer lab at the Mid-Continent Tower, Gavin Manes and his examiners look for signs of greed and crime.

It doesn't involve fancy lasers, ultraviolet lights or brushes. They're looking for digital fingerpints -- hidden computer data that might reveal a misdeed that cost a business thousands or millions of dollars.

"We frisk that computer and we find everything. What are your employees doing, not necessarily to steal something from you, that may still cost you money eventually?" said Manes, president and founder of Digitical Forensics Professionals Inc. in Tulsa.

Oklahoma businesses are working closer than ever with authorities and private firms to thwart hackers, data thieves, malicious code spreaders and cyber terrorists.

Oklahoma has some obvious targets: The state's aerospace industry, with more than 40,000 jobs, has close ties with the military. Oklahoma's oil and gas industry has been rejuvenated, and community leaders are pushing development of high-tech firms.

Incidents do happen. In 2003, the Tulsa World reported that Tulsa police got word from the FBI, via an informant, that hackers might be scanning wireless networks of local financial institutions, looking for system weaknesses.

Authorities cited a Web site listing banks and large retail businesses that did not encrypt their wireless data.

Oklahoma is also a part of the national picture.

Organized crime figures from the former Soviet Union are threatening a variety of businesses in the United States, especially the control and accounting systems of the energy sector, said Sujeet Shenoi, a University of Tulsa computer science professor and national expert on cyber security.

Terrorists have also discussed using computers to steal money from businesses to fund their operations, he said.

The number of system intrusion investigations handled by Oklahoma City's FBI bureau has doubled in the past year, said James Adams, FBI supervisory agent in Oklahoma City and leader of the state's cyber crime prevention efforts. He declined to release specific numbers about intrusions.

Additional agents and analysts were deployed in several cities -- including Oklahoma City -- to assist in investigations of intellectual property crime, the FBI said in June.

Federal agents have also been holding monthly cyber-awareness presentations for businesses and industries in Oklahoma, Adams said.

"The threat is out there, every day," Adams said in an interview. "The vulnerabilities to systems, from hardware to software, are known to the bad guys. There's proprietary, personal and financial information, and those are the things they want to obtain and exploit.

"It takes everyday vigilance to protect those systems."

Nationally, cyber crime is a sensitive, under-reported problem for businesses, according to a Computer Security Institute/FBI survey in 2005.

Virus attacks continued to be the greatest source of financial losses, totaling $42 million in 2005. But unauthorized access to systems showed a dramatic increase last year, when such access and theft of proprietary information cost $30 million in losses.

Utility, transportation and telecommunications companies spend the most, per employee, for computer security. Eighty-seven percent of the organizations surveyed -- including governments and private businesses -- conducted security audits in 2005, up 5 percent. But only a quarter of those responding said they have cyber insurance.

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