Extortionists, swindlers, ID thieves haunt Web, HPD vet says
Since his retirement Feb. 28 from the Honolulu Police Department, Chris Duque has kept busy talking to community groups and schools about the hazards of computers in general and the Internet in particular.
In a blunt speaking style, the former detective warns that Net-linked computers offer a huge, anonymous playground for thieves, extortionists and vandals.
The state Department of Education was lucky, relatively, when its Web site was hacked and vandalized earlier this month, a prank traced to culprits in Scandinavia with no apparent motive other than mischief, Duque said.
DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen confirmed that the tampering, which introduced an obscenity onto one page, was quickly fixed.
"It was a 'gotcha' sort of thing," Knudsen said. "Someone did get into a particular server -- it was kind of intermittent for a day or so -- and they did shift data from one server to another."
But businesses like banks that stake their reputations on the security of their Web sites have been the targets of extortion from successful hackers, Duque said Thursday in a presentation.
"E-mail harassment and terroristic threatening, especially in the business environment, is not being reported because the victims are high, influential people who don't want the press coverage," Duque told the Honolulu chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals, meeting at the Hale Koa Hotel. "Somebody hacks into your system (and says), 'Give me $50,000 and I won't reveal this to the media, that I can hack into your system.'"
Far more common are fraud and identity theft by computer, Duque said.
"The biggest part of Internet fraud is coming from auction sites," he said, adding that HPD and eBay recently teamed up for a four-hour training session on countering auction-site fraud, where thieves posing as sellers get account information from buyers.
Further, the common online payment method, PayPal, holds a huge potential for money laundering, Duque said. "I'm the buyer and I'm the seller. Nothing moves except my money, and I can pick up the money from any access point."
Online sexual predation shows no sign of subsiding, despite shows like NBC's "Dateline: To Catch a Predator," where some predators have fallen for the show's teenage-girl ruse more than once, he said.
As an HPD detective, Duque posted fake profiles as well, describing himself as a girl who likes anime, manga and Roxy swimsuits, and had "hits" -- some from middle-age men -- within minutes, he recalled.
The best protection is awareness by young people and their parents, and that is why Duque makes the rounds to Oahu schools, most recently Saturday at Kaimuki High School.
Meanwhile, a law that went into effect last May has made it a separate crime to use a computer to commit first- or second-degree theft.
That has coincided with an increase in computer-related prosecutions, says Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter.
Van Marter now has two other deputy prosecutors working with him in his white-collar crime unit, up from a single deputy in 2005.
The rise in white-collar crime comes from two main sources, he said: computer-related fraud and theft, and fraud involving elderly victims. Computer-crime prosecutions have numbered 17 since late 2005, he said. The previous all-time figure was two.