Lots of short stories, books, television shows and movies have been written on the “perfect crime” theme. The good guys always win because there is no such thing.
Or there wasn’t, until the internet came on the scene.
Think about what has happened locally during the past few weeks. Last Thursday, some local hospitals and businesses — along with the News-Register and The Intelligencer — received emails claiming bombs had been sent to our buildings. We were told we’d have to pay ransom to keep from being blown up.
We had to take the threat seriously, as did so many others in our area that local police had to enlist some bomb-sniffing dogs from Muskingum County to check out all the affected buildings. There were thousands of other victims throughout the country.
Just a few weeks ago, the emergency rooms at Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital had to be shut down for a few days because someone hacked into their computer systems.
If you own a computer connected to the internet, you probably have been targeted by the internet thugs. Click on a link in the wrong email, and your computer can be infected by a virus. Ditto for clicking on the link in that window that popped up on your screen, informing you that your computer had a problem.
Of course, the perpetrators of such crimes will be caught and punished severely.
Right. And I have some land in Florida to sell you.
Trouble is, they never seem to be caught — unless, of course, they’ve made the mistake of hacking into a federal government computer (or a private one in the basement of a secretary of state’s home).
Why is that? Do law enforcement agencies lack the technology needed to track down the people who shut down the local e-rooms?
Local ones don’t have the equipment, know-how or time to chase internet criminals (though sometimes, when child pornography is involved, they get the help they need to catch the perverts).
Why is it that the law enforcement establishment — and by that, I mean the feds — doesn’t do more to catch and punish internet criminals? One reason, of course, is that many of them are based overseas. That would explain why the threat we received demanded payment in bitcoin.
Obviously, there needs to be more international cooperation in punishing internet criminals. Unfortunately, some of them — especially in China and Russia — seem to be working for or sanctioned by their governments.
So how do we deal with these thugs?
First, there needs to be an intensive law enforcement effort here in the United States. Officials in Washington may think internet crime is relatively harmless — but wait until a few dozen people die in a hospital where some hacker has shut down critical networks. Or wait until we in the news media find and report on some people who are homeless because someone used the internet to steal everything they owned.
Second, internet crime abroad needs to be taken as seriously as nuclear, chemical and biological warfare. For now, it isn’t. Perhaps a few intrusions into the Chinese Communist Party’s headquarters computers could change that.
Unless Washington does something about this, it’s only going to get worse. At some point, those emailed bomb threats will be followed up by explosions.
Myer can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.