Recent law enforcement activity against a couple of high profile Russian cyber criminals reminds us that while some major cyber criminals continue to act with impunity, it appears that progress is being made on some fronts.
Cyveillance recently asked the United States Embassy in Moscow to comment on cooperation between our countries in the fight on cybercrime for publication on CyveillanceBlog.com. Below, the responses to our inquires from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow:
Cyveillance: Is there regular dialogue between the American and Russian governments at the diplomatic level on the topic of international cybercrime? If so, how often does such engagement occur?
U.S., Embassy in Moscow: Yes, on more than one level. For example, there is ongoing dialogue between U.S. and Russian diplomats concerning matters of Internet governance, of which law enforcement efforts against cyber crime are an integral part. These discussions typically occur in a multi-national setting such as the United Nations. Additionally there is ongoing dialogue and cooperation between our respective investigators on particular cyber crime cases. This dialogue occurs in several ways, including through periodic face-to-face meetings several times per year. In some instances, these discussions focus on a particular area of cyber crime. For example, there is a bilateral United States – Russia IPR Working Group which meets regularly to discuss issues related to intellectual property protection, including in cyber space, with special focus on enforcement.
Cyveillance: With the shutdown Russia-based Spamit this fall and the investigation into the activities of alleged spammer Igor Gusev, it appears Russian authorities may be taking steps to curtail cybercrime. From the U.S. Embassy in Moscow’s perspective, are these isolated incidents or does it appear that there may be a shift in the climate for cybercriminals in Russia?
U.S., Embassy in Moscow: We are hopeful that these examples mark the beginning of the creation of a much more difficult environment for cyber criminals, not only in Russia, but worldwide. As you know, cyber crime transcends national boundaries not only in the perpetrator-victim sense, but also in the sense that members of the same cyber-driven criminal organization are often based in several countries. It is more important than ever that each nation take steps to clamp down on cyber crime.
Cyveillance: Russia traditionally enjoys a population that is well educated in math and engineering. Some authors suggest that the lack of opportunities in traditional business environments may tempt talented programmers into criminal activity. Is the State Department aware of any formal efforts that will help encourage Russian technologists to pursue legal opportunities using their skills, as opposed to those offered by cybercrime?
U.S., Embassy in Moscow: President Medvedev has made technological development a very high priority in his administration’s vision for the future of Russia. One example of this is the plan to develop a cyber industry, along the lines of Silicon Valley, based in the town of Skolkovo near Moscow. The prioritization of economic development in the tech sector, provided it is coupled with a strong law enforcement response to cyber crime, should incentivize individuals with technical skills to seek legitimate career paths.
Cyveillance: While there have been some recent notable exceptions, Western cybercrime researchers and even some in law enforcement sometimes feel that Russian cybercriminals are out of reach and enjoy a de facto immunity from prosecution. What is the State Department’s position on the amount and quality of cooperation received from Russian officials in international cybercrime investigations?
U.S., Embassy in Moscow: There has been some cooperation on cyber crime matters, but there is a need for far more. That is an overarching goal of the ongoing dialogue between our countries on these issues. Certainly, enhanced cooperation in this area would support the goals announced by President Medvedev for technological development in Russia, as those who consider investing in that development will expect a consistently strong law enforcement response to cyber and other crimes to protect their investments.
Cyveillance: From the State Department’s perspective, how much of American success in combating cybercrime of Russian origin is amenable to American law enforcement’s efforts? Are there inroads that remain to be made at the diplomatic level first?
U.S., Embassy in Moscow: The United States plays a leadership role in combating cyber crime, but no one nation can tackle this multi-national problem. The United States has law enforcement partnerships around the world with dedicated and highly professional counterparts in the area of cyber crime. We are striving to strengthen our partnership with our Russian counterparts in this area, which is certainly in our mutual interest.
Cyveillance: Is there anything else the State Department thinks cybercrime researchers or the general public should know about efforts to combat cybercrime in Russia?
U.S., Embassy in Moscow: Cyber crime presents complex problems that require a complex, multi-faceted response. This includes coordinated efforts not only by the governments of the United States, Russia and other countries, but also by those in industry and academia. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in this important dialogue.
Many thanks to U.S. Embassy staff for taking the time to answer our questions.