What's in your pocket could make cybertheft a breeze

Secret Service special agent in charge, Kenneth Cronin, said the computer in your pocket or your purse is what makes you vulnerable.

ATLANTA – The Secret Service says that cybercrooks are looking for easy prey.

Secret Service special agent in charge, Kenneth Cronin, said the computer in your pocket or your purse is what makes you vulnerable.

"We call it a phone, but we all carry a computer around in our pocket so it makes it a lot easier,” the Atlanta-based agent said. “They're trying to turn your information, my information into money.”

“If you get credit card information you can go on the dark web and different chat rooms and that information can be sold,” he continued.

Cronin gave 11Alive an exclusive insider’s view on how they are combating cybercrime in an effort to create awareness, since October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

As technology becomes more convenient and mobile, cybercrime gets easier; creating more difficulty for the Secret Service.

Cronin said criminals often infiltrate corporations the same way as two recent high-profile cases—the Equifax data breach that compromised 143 million Americans and the payroll hack targeting Atlanta Public Schools—with a single company email.

“When you click on those links there's malicious code in there, that automatically gets into your system,” he said.

However, he said, in many cases there are signs of intent to compromise emailed information.

“Sometimes when you hit reply to these things and you look at the reply addresses they're off by one character whether it’s an exclamation point or a different numeral,” Cronin said. “Criminals will try casting a very wide net.”

Furthermore, he said, even when malware is sent to a company with thousands of employees it only takes one person to click on the link and from there criminals can infiltrate and entire network.

If 99 out of 100 employees don't take the bait, it doesn’t matter. It only takes one employee to click on the link and from there, criminals can infiltrate the entire network.

“Think of it as a burglar, once they're in the house, they're in the house. It doesn't matter whether they came in from the front door, the back door it doesn't matter they're in and they can go everywhere in the house,” Cronin said.

They’re after your personal information and your money.

“If you get credit card information you can go on the dark web and there a different chat rooms and that information can be sold,” he said. 

Cybercrime investigators, like Cronin, have saved Americans $558 million in 2016 by catching cyberthieves. The amount lost to cybercrime was $124.5 million, according to Staysafeonline.org.

His advice to consumers to track, and hopefully, halt a theft in progress, is to order and review an annual credit report.   

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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