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New Connecticut Task Force Targets Cybercrime

As technology continues to advance, so does cybercrime. It is spreading its wings to new sectors as well as enforcing its presence in the daily activities of human beings.

Crimes ranging from Phishing schemes, identity theft, drug distribution rings, ransomware and malware attacks, security hack and breaches, are visible more now than ever and Connecticut are beginning to experience such issues.

A group of law enforcement agencies is uniting in the city of Connecticut to step up efforts in the fight against online cyber criminals. On Tuesday, Officials of federal, state as well as local law enforcement announced the creation of a Connecticut Cyber Task Force, headquartered at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office in New Haven, which will investigate the various crimes happening daily in cyberspace.

This newly formed Cyber Task Force comprises 11 local police departments including Bridgeport. It also includes representatives from U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, Defense Criminal Investigative Service and Connecticut State Police.

“The primary goal of the task force is to combine available federal, state and local law enforcement resources in Connecticut to address challenging and emerging cyber threats,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Patricia M. Ferrick.

Deidre Daly, a U.S. Attorney stated that the department is a “great partner” although it currently does not have a representative from the New Haven Police Department.

“The broad reach of cyber criminals can be felt almost every day in Connecticut,” U.S. Attorney Daly stated.

“Day after day, we learn of companies, municipalities, educational institutions, hospitals, public utilities, non-profits and citizens being targeted. This task force will address the significant increase in the number of cyber attacks occurring in Connecticut,” Daly added.

She went ahead to say that “in the Glastonbury school district alone, 122 fraudulent task returns were filed, seeking more than half a million dollars in phony refunds.”

“These defendants bought kilogram quantities of fentanyl, ecstasy, and 40,000 pills of Xanax through sources on the dark web.”

Thomas Lawler, a Special Supervisory Agent under the FBI, stated that the types of cyber crimes reported in the state are of the same manner as online crimes reported across the country.

“The number of calls the FBI is receiving in the last year or so has increasing dramatically, especially around ransomware attacks, where the adversary is locking the victim’s computer, locking the data, and extorting them for money,” he stated.

U.S. Attorney Daly also noted that one of the focus of the newly formed Task Force will focus on drug sales on the dark web in which illicit drugs are found and bought anonymously online, eluding the normal markets that are monitored by the police.

“Many dark web forums are an online version of an open-air drug market where narcotics are openly marketed and sold with impunity,” U.S. Attorney Daly stated, in reference to the dark web marketplaces that provide anonymity for its visitors.

“We believe that the vast majority of fentanyl that is killing far too many Americans is being produced overseas, and then sold on the dark web,” she added.

The owners of these dark web marketplaces take advantage of their anonymity and existing delivery services such as the U.S. Postal Service to avoid being caught by the police with drugs as well as other risks as compared to the traditional drug dealers.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Ferguson, speaking on this issue said that: “Many times these organizations are utilizing the dark web to procure fentanyl directly from China.”

“Connecticut has been experiencing a deadly opioid epidemic, and the majority of these deaths can be attributed to a combination of fentanyl and heroin.”

Still, of the issue of the dark web, Dr. Abe Baggili of the University of New Haven Cyber Forensics Lab stated that “I have seen stats that almost 90 percent of all cases have some sort of digital evidence associated with them.”

Dr. Baggili expressed his delight at the creation of the task force, saying that it is a great step forward, however, Connecticut is still behind the curve when it comes to fighting cyber crime.

“But I think they are very quickly realizing that it’s a major challenge,” he stated.

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