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Cyber crime: charges announced in massive credit card data case

In "Iron Man 3," one of this summer's top-grossing movies, Iron Man asserts that the term "hacking" is getting dated. It's true that the term goes back to the 1980s. But it continues to evolve, and is now often associated with large-scale cyber crime.

For example, two weeks ago federal authorities in New Jersey charged five men with computer crimes in connection with a case involving targeted hacking and widespread credit card fraud.

The five men are from Russia and the Ukraine. The men allegedly stole about 160 million credit card numbers. The resulting monetary losses were reportedly more than $300 million, making this perhaps one of the biggest cyber crimes cases ever brought in the U.S.

Authorities had been investigating the five men for several years. But the men shielded their actions through sophisticated software that disabled anti-virus programs. They also used multiple platforms to store the data they obtained through systematic hacking.

The amount of profit from a single stolen credit card is not large. According to prosecutors, one of the five men charged in the hacking scheme charged $10 for U.S. cards and $50 for European cards, which have computer chips not contained in American cards. But when these amounts are multiplied by 160 million, the resulting number becomes very large.

In addition to the charges issued in New Jersey, there were also charges made in New York City. One of the men charged in New Jersey was also charged in Manhattan with involvement in a hacking scheme to steal bank account information.

Iron Man, it would seem, may need to update his notion of the evolving definition of hacking in an age of increasingly high-end cyber crime.

Source: Chicago Tribune / Reuters, "U.S. indicts hackers in biggest cyber fraud case in history," David Jones and Jim Finkle, July 26, 2013

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