RSAC 2011: Forming a bridge between law enforcement and security

Last week, during the RSA Conference, The Tech Herald attended a separate and honestly compelling event called BSides. We attended a talk given by Nick Selby that raised awareness on what we feel is an important issue the security and business world’s face today, communication problems with law enforcement.

There is a growing disconnect between the two worlds, and Selby has an idea that could create a strong bond between them.

[Note: The BSides talks are created by, and presented for, the security community. The list of locations where BSides events are held is growing. If you are interested in hosting your own BSides talk in your area, or just want to see what it is all about, head here for more information.]

Nick Selby is the Managing Director of Trident Risk Management, and a sworn law enforcement officer in Texas. He also established the security practice at The 451 Group in 2005. With his law enforcement experience and his InfoSec background, he knows the communication gap inside and out.

But he is only one man. So his talk at BSides San Francisco centered on getting help from the security community to create a non-profit organization that would address the communication divides between the two professional groups.

According to a report from Arbor Networks, 61-percent of the organizations they spoke to during a recent study said they will never report a cybercrime to local, state, or federal law enforcement. Some of the reasons included internal policy and low confidence in investigative efficacy.

At the same time, a small number of those who spoke to Arbor said they had formed a mutually beneficial relationship with law enforcement. These relationships led to more incident referrals.

“It is our hope that this formula can be replicated elsewhere, leading to greater and more fruitful law enforcement involvement in the identification, prosecution and incarceration of Internet criminals,” Arbor stated in their report at the time.

After a security incident, InfoSec professionals have a hard time talking to police and explaining to them exactly what happened in terms that non-technical investigators can understand. Being technically inclined is not a requirement to join the police force. Yet, this doesn’t mean that local or state police don’t care about cybercrime.

They do care, but they need better information to articulate the loss an organization is faced with up the chain within the justice system. They cannot assume the scope of a given loss or crime, and they wouldn’t anyway because assumptions don’t carry much weight in court.

“So [InfoSec professionals are] not good at telling the police exactly what happened, in terms that police can understand and actually work with. Computer crimes are illegal in almost all states…In Texas, intrusion of computer networks, stealing of digital assets, credit card, or gift card theft, all of these things are illegal," Selby told us in an interview.

Not all law enforcement officers understand the process of getting a solution from an InfoSec standpoint, but they are crystal clear when it comes to getting one from a legal perspective.

Selby’s idea is to form a group who will act as a non-profit, comprised of InfoSec professionals and law enforcement officers which can aid each other by essentially translating information crucial to both sides of the equation.

This group would work alongside other groups, such as InfraGard. InfraGard is an information and intelligence sharing program between the FBI and the private sector. There are chapters all over the U.S. and the roster of members is rather large.

However, the focus of this newly proposed group will help organizations who face an incident that might not be large enough to need FBI involvement. Sometimes a cybercrime investigation can stay local, such as city, county, or state police, but there is still a need for translators who can talk to them.

In addition, when InfoSec professionals communicate with law enforcement, they should be aware that reported crimes go through triage. Law enforcement agencies, especially the larger ones, have the resources to investigate cybercrimes. The problem is time. So a loss of about $1,000 will take a lower priority to an incident that led to $100,000 in losses.

When the communication between an InfoSec professional and law enforcement officer clicks, the investigating agency can use it to confirm something happened and articulate this information to the prosecutor. The prosecutor can then show what was taken, its value, and who is responsible for the loss.

The value of any recovery costs or actual data stolen is important, as it will help the law enforcement agency determine the grade of crime. There is a huge difference between a misdemeanor and a felony, and value is part of how this is determined. The more information that is shared, including all the financials, the more likely an organization is to see a successful result during the incident recovery.

“In order for a police officer to understand how he can proceed with an investigation; he has to know that a crime was committed…and they have to understand what the damages are. Cops want to stop crime. That’s why they became cops. If you’re dealing with a cop who can understand you, the cop can help you and do what their job is. That gives them a great deal of satisfaction,” Selby added.

When reporting a cybercrime to local or state law enforcement, even to federal levels, InfoSec professionals also need to show why investigating the incident is worth the law enforcement agency’s time.

Selby explained that law enforcement officers are often concerned that if they do start investigating, and it turns out that the organization’s crime is greater than it first appeared, countless hours and days of work could be spent before another agency takes over. If this happens, then the local or state law enforcement agencies fear they wouldn’t get any credit for all of their labor.

Selby’s goal is one that will see InfoSec professionals help law enforcement understand the realm of the possibilities during the initial part of an investigation. And law enforcement professionals would help set realistic expectations for InfoSec, and help InfoSec better articulate their problems in a manner useful to law enforcement.

Having a certified forensics person from a large organization, one who can offer assistance by providing information such as what is and what is not possible with computer forensics, would go a long way towards helping a law enforcement agency take things forward after a security incident.

That is the key. While most of the processes and examples Selby gave in his talk would make it seem like he wants to turn cops into InfoSec professionals and vice versa, that isn’t the case at all. Cybercrime is still a crime, and that is something for law enforcement to deal with.

The InfoSec professionals who work in Selby’s group are not doing law enforcement’s job. They’ll point out resources and available information, explaining what’s practical if needed. From there, law enforcement is able to complete the investigation process.

“What we’re doing is comparative to having a trusted translator in a place where you don’t speak the language. If you go do business in Brazil, but you don’t speak Portuguese, you’re local translator is not going to cut the deal for you. They’re going to help you understand the terms, so that you can make your business decision. That’s exactly what we’re doing here,” Selby said.

The group isn’t complete. Selby’s talk was to share his idea and show how it could work. However, before this new group can take off, he needs the community’s help. What, if anything, is wrong with his idea or the concept itself? What is right with it?

These were all things he asked of the audience at BSides San Francisco.

As he said in his talk, if you want to join him and do your part to help protect the flock, he can be reached here.

Like this article? Please share on Facebook and give The Tech Herald a Like too!

From our Other Sites

Man Makes Tiny Edible Pancakes with Tiny Kitchen Tools (Video)

This Japanese guy cooks up some pancakes…nothing special there right? Well he uses tiny implements to do it and makes perfect little pancakes. Kinda cool and they look tasty!

What Color is this Dress?

White and Gold or Blue and Black?
Well this one has been trending all over the web, just what color is this dress? It all started in Scotland when the mother of a bride-to-be sent a picture to her daughter asking what she thought of the dress. The bride and groom each saw the image differently, this then got posted online and picked up by some viral sites. The lighting in photo is probably  causing different people to see it as either white and gold or blue and black. Prof Stephen Westland, chair of color science and technology at a University in the UK told the BBC that it was impossible to see what other people see but that it was most […]

McLaren 675LT Pictures

Some great shots of the forthcoming McLaren 675LT. This coupe will get you to 60mph in less than 2.9 second and go all the way to 205mph.

McLaren 675LT Details

McLaren’s 675LT will debut at this year’s Geneva show and promises some eye-popping performance. The coupe only 675LT has a 3.8 liter V8 that will get you from 0-60mph in less than 2.9 seconds and to 124mph in less than 7.9 secondsMore than a third of the parts have been changed compared with its stable mate […]

McLaren 675LT Wallpaper

Some cool McLaren 675LT Wallpaper. The McLaren 675LT is the latest coupe to come from the supercar maker and has a top speed of 205mph.Click on an image to open a page with multiple sizes that you can download to use as wallpaper for your mobile or desktop.More McLaren Wallpaper.

Octopus hunts on land, grabs crab (Video)

This crab is minding its own business searching the rock pools for food when suddenly an octopus leaps out of the water and grabs it. The amazing thing is that the octopus does not just jump on the crab it actually pulls it all the way back to the rock pool it came from. If you check the second video you will see it is not unknown for octopus to come out of the water and the one in the second video has a crab with it, though is not hunting one! Octopus Walks on Land at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve The video was taken by Porsche Indrisie in Yallingup, Western […]

Stunning Mars Rover Selfie

This image by the Curiosity Mars rover is not exactly your typical selfie. It is made up of a bunch of images taken by the rover during January 2015 by the Mars Hand Lens Imager. This (MAHLI) camera is at the end of the robot’s arm. For a sense of scale the rover’s wheels are about 20 inches diameter and 16 inches wide. Check the annotated image below for more information on the surroundings. Also if you really want to see some detail click this very large image, 36mb, at NASA.  

How the Sahara Helps Feed the Amazon (Video)

Sahara to Amazon
This cool video from NASA shows how dust is transferred across the Atlantic to the Amazon rainforest and helps nourish the plants growing there. For the first time scientists have measured the amount of dust and the amount of phosphorus in the dust. The later acts like a fertiliser and helps replenish the phosphorus the rainforest loses each year, around 22,000 tons. Amazing how something we perceive as being desolate like a desert actually has an important role in sustaining somewhere we see as teeming with life. Image and video from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Bouncing Laser Guided Bomb (Video)

This amazing video shows a laser guided bomb bouncing back up after hitting its target. We actually think this is a non-explosive bomb designed to test guidance systems but it is still pretty remarkable and somewhat scary.

South Koreans Swallowed by Sinkhole (Video)

Thankfully the couple survived their adventure.
This amazing footage taken from the CCTV on a passing bus shows the moment two pedestrians in South Korea fall down a sinkhole in the street! Rescue workers managed to save the pair, who were treated in a nearby hospital for minor injuries. According to reports the city authorities and the Korean Geotechnical Society are looking into the cause.