The US Secret Service announced July 9 the establishment of the Cyber Fraud Task Force (CFTF) to more effectively counter the growing threat of transnational cybercrime, especially against the country's financial system.
As the line between cyber and financial crimes has steadily blurred in recent years to the point where cyber and financial crimes cannot be effectively disentangled, the service decided to consolidate its Electronic Crimes Task Forces (ECTFs) and Financial Crimes Task Forces (FCTFs) into a unified network, the service said.
“The creation of the new Cyber Fraud Task Force (CFTF), will offer a specialized cadre of agents and analysts, trained in the latest analytical techniques and equipped with the most cutting-edge technologies. Together with our partners, the CFTFs stand ready to combat the full range of cyber-enabled financial crimes. As the nation continues to grapple with the wave of cybercrime associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the CFTFs will lead the effort to hold accountable all those who seek to exploit this perilous moment for their own illicit gain,” said Michael D’Ambrosio, assistant director of the Secret Service.
The consolidation has reportedly followed more than two years of planning, multiple pilot programs, and input from key stakeholders and partners.
The service noted that online payments and banking are now globally pervasive, credit card numbers and personal information are illegally sold on the Internet and darkweb, and cryptocurrencies have become one of the primary means by which criminals launder their illicit profits.
In today’s environment, the Secret Service said, investigators must understand both the internet and financial sectors as well as the institutions and technologies that power each industry in order to effectively pursue a cybercrime or financial investigation, with nearly all Secret Service investigations making use of digital evidence.
The Cyber Fraud Task Forces are said to be aimed at improving coordination, sharing of expertise and resources, and disseminating best practices for collaboratively investigating the wide range of cyber-enabled financial crimes, from business email compromise scams to ransomware attacks, from data breaches to the sale of stolen credit cards and personal information on the Internet.
According to an estimate by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, malicious cyber activity cost the U.S. economy between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016 alone. Both the FCTFs and the ECTFs prevented over $7.1 billion in potential fraud losses in the financial year of 2019, according to the Secret Service.
Since March, the Secret Service said, its efforts have successfully disrupted hundreds of online COVID-19 related scams, halted the illicit sales of online stolen COVID-19 test kits, and prevented tens of millions of dollars in fraud from occurring. The service is now leading a nationwide effort to investigate and counter a transnational unemployment fraud scheme targeting the U.S. state unemployment programs, it added.
The Secret Service, which has CFTFs in London, Rome and 42 domestic offices, is said to be planning to extend the network to its more than 160 offices across the country and around the globe.