Largely unregulated, endlessly innovative and only partly tapped, cyberspace is the world’s new frontier and the United States’ biggest national security concern, cybercrime experts said on Jan. 10 at Fordham.
“Those in Washington D.C. have had difficulty agreeing on anything,” said Timothy A. Williams, director of Washington INTERPOL, speaking at the third annual International Conference on Cyber Security sponsored jointly by Fordham and the FBI. “But the [directors]of Homeland Security all agree that cybercrime is our biggest threat.”
The conference attracted more than 350 law enforcement professionals, academics, military members and private industry experts from 60 countries.
Williams told a standing-room-only audience at the Lincoln Center campus that one of the biggest challenges facing security experts is that cybercriminals can run their operations against the world’s most powerful countries and companies from small nations with poor law enforcement agencies.
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“These opportunistic criminals take advantage of what law enforcement hasn’t been able to do well—transcend borders.”
That’s where INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization) comes in, Williams said. The world’s second-largest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations, it currently has 190 member countries that share information on a real-time basis 24-hours a day over a secure network.
The only major country in the world that is not an INTERPOL member, said Williams, is North Korea.
Williams said the Internet has done “wonders” to connect the world’s law enforcement agencies in the areas of human and drug trafficking, capturing fugitives, money laundering, child pornography and intellectual property theft. Still, many countries are too poor to join the fee-supported agency or are lagging in technical capability.
INTERPOL has several future initiatives, said Williams. Among them are to:
• promote more global participation in the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, an international treaty seeking to address computer crime and Internet crimes by harmonizing national laws;
• enlist more support for an INTERPOL Global Complex that is under construction in Singapore and expected to open in 2014; INTERPOL is headquartered in Lyon, France; and
• boost funding; INTERPOL currently relies on subscriber fees and has an annual budget of €59 million.
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Hon. Howard A. Schmidt, special assistant to the president and the White House’s cybersecurity coordinator, opened the conference. Schmidt outlined initiatives the administration had undertaken to create a national strategy for cyberspace. These include a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace initiative to make digital identities less cumbersome, asking for private sector accountability and asking Congress to increase punishments for cybercrimes.
“This is our opportunity to have a cyberspace that is open to innovation [and]secure enough to earn our trust,” he said.