Newark FBI Cyber Division looks to fight NJ computer crimes
The Federal Bureau of Investigation says that cyberattacks have escalated in the past year to a point that the crime has become a top national security priority.
The agency says that there are hundreds of cyberattacks all over the world at any given time. The public can track these attacks using an online map called Norse.
"It's a good measuring stick to kind of look at what's going on and where the attacks are coming from," says FBI Newark Supervisor Special Agent John Leo. "Correlate that with some of the data that we get from our investigations as well."
The FBI investigates computer hackers, illegal cyber syndicates and online actors that enslave computers.
Millions of people saw dozens of websites go down on Oct. 21 during a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. DDoS attacks are typically carried out to annoy, but the FBI says that they are also a concern.
"If there is damage that results, whether it be at a company or a family, then we'll work with our partners to make sure the company or the individual is made whole," says Michael Brodack, of the FBI's cyber division.
"In New Jersey there are a large amount of data centers, there are a lot of large pharmaceutical companies, those tend to be targets of attacks," says Leo.
Other cyberattacks include ransomware, which is malware that encrypts and blocks a computer's files and holds them hostage.
"A message will pop up on the user's computer," Leo says. "It will tell them their files are encrypted, where to go to send payment...usually in bitcoins."
There's also using malware to get access to accounts to steal money. One of the FBI's most wanted cyber fugitives, Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev, is accused of just such a thing.
FBI cyberteams can also travel the world to help on major intrusions.
Leo says that the public can help by reporting cybercrime and by being vigilant.
"Use common sense. If something looks suspicious, it probably is," he says. "Don't open it, don't click on links."
The FBI also has an Internet Crime Complaint center online, where victims or third parties can offer information on cybercrimes.