In today’s increasingly interconnected world, cyber criminals have become adept at exploiting the Internet to support underground online marketplaces, child exploitation, intellectual property theft, and many more cyber-related crimes.
To more effectively mitigate and respond to these threats, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Cyber Crimes Center – also known as C3 – received a major expansion over the summer in an effort to enhance the agency’s ability to disrupt and defeat increasingly sophisticated cyber criminals operating around the globe.
C3 delivers computer and cyber-based technical services in support of domestic and international investigations into crossborder crime. The recent expansion included more space and capacity for their cyber facility, as well as much larger training and analytical facilities.
Homeland Security Today spoke with Patrick Lechleitner, Acting Deputy Associate Director of C3, who discussed how the center has evolved since its establishment in 1997, and what its future looks like as cyber criminals and technologies become increasingly difficult to combat.
“What we have been seeing over the years is that everything these transnational criminal organizations [TCOs] have been doing, they are now doing on the Internet, or in a computerenabled way. We have had to evolve to adapt to that,” Lechleitner said.
A far flung investigative capability
Lechleitner further explained HSI has 200 domestic offices and more than 70 offices overseas, giving HSI the ability to follow a case wherever in the world it may lead. C3 has become the reachback for all those offices on any kind of criminality with a digital nexus.
Since its creation, ICE has had to adapt as transnational criminal organizations have moved operations to the Internet. C3 now houses three units: child exploitation investigations, computer forensics, and cyber crimes.
Lechleitner explained that, “In addition to child exploitation and computer forensics units, we have added a third unit: the computer crimes unit. This is the resource driving innovation when it comes to computer-enabled crimes, such as network intrusion of online theft of intellectual property and intrusion of export control data.”
The expansion of the center has helped keep pace with escalating threats. As criminality has moved to the digital realm, C3 has seen an explosion of activity by transnational actors on the deep web. Additionally, the sophistication of TCOs versus individual actors has become more pervasive.
One of the most recent examples is the notorious takedown of Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0. C3 played a major supportive role in these complex, multi-agency investigations, which involved computer hacking, fraudulent identification, and the economic pieces – money laundering andcurrency.
Read the complete report in the Feb/March 2016 issue of Homeland Security Today.