Computer science professor discusses cyber crime as part of U.N. panel
By Liz Piscitelli
Cyber crime is a lucrative and growing problem that can only be solved by understanding the nature of the crime and who it affects, according to a Lehigh computer science engineering professor who spoke as part of a three-person panel at the United Nations.
Dr. Gang Tan, who spoke last month along with a representative from the department of justice and a U.N. representative from the Office of Drug and Crimes, discussed the technical aspects of cyber crime and the United Nations' potential role in helping to stop it.
Cyber crime, he said, is best defined as scamming on the Internet, usually through spam emails or pop-up ads, to compromise one's computer. Tan calls cyber criminals the "drug traffickers of today" and says that scamming on the Internet is not only easy to do, but also lucrative.
"Criminals in Jamaica call someone and tell them they won a million dollars," Tan explains. "To collect, they have to pay a fee, so the scammers collect and gain access to the recipient's personal information.
"Viruses and worms are directed toward software," Tan adds. "They cause denial-of service attacks to bring down specific Web sites to prevent them from servicing legitimate users."
According to Tan, "botnets" are the key piece of machinery used to compromise computers. A botnet can overwhelm the compromised computer by sending out spam content and distributing denial of service attacks. They can also steal personal and financial information through a "key logger."
"If you open an email, it may install a botnet into your PC," Tan said.
Tan said the greatest danger is the users' inability to recognize when their computer has been compromised by a botnet. Botnets are also dangerous because of their potential size.
"The top botnet has 30 million compromised computers," Tan said. "Essentially, the botmaster has millions of computers in his hands."
After his presentation, several members of the audience approached Tan for a question and answer session, which lasted an hour.