FBI Internet Crime Report Released for 2018

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Complaint Center (IC3) released its annual report on internet crimes in its 2018 Internet Crime Report.shiny coins with bitcoin logo

A total of 351,936 complaints of internet crime were submitted to the FBI IC3 in 2018, resulting in monetary losses exceeding $2.7 billion. The most common crimes were scams on electronic purchases, personal data breaches and extortion, while the most costly crimes involved investment scams, business email compromises, and romance/confidence fraud. Persons over the age of 50 were more likely to be victims of internet crimes.

In 2018, the FBI IC3 developed the Recovery Asset Team (RAT) to assist with the recovery of funds for victims who transferred funds to domestic accounts under false premises. This agency succeeded in recovering 75% of losses reported to these types of internet crimes.

The IC3 was established in May 2000 and has received over 4.4 million complaints since then. The majority of victims of internet crime in 2018 lived in California, Texas, Florida, Washington, Illinois, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, and Colorado. The highest monetary losses were reported in California, Texas, Florida, New York, North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Social media and virtual currency were two of the most common tools used to engage in internet crime.

The prevalence of internet crimes continued an upward trend in 2018 and the FBI IC3 advises that awareness and reporting are crucial to the prevention and intervention of these crimes.

More resources can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL). Some of the links require institutional access, click here for direct access to the 2018 Internet Crime Report.

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Author: Andrea Page


Redacted Mueller Report Released

DOJ sealToday the U.S. Department of Justice released the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Special Counsel Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election (the “Mueller Report”). The Mueller Report contains two volumes, the first of which details the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Volume II describes the investigation of presidential interference in the Mueller investigation itself.

Volume I concludes that there was in fact Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. This occurred through a social media campaign that disparaged Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and through the release of documents stolen from the Clinton Campaign. The investigation identified many links between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government, but did not establish direct collusion between the two, suggesting instead that the Russian government possibly acted of its own accord and perceived benefit.

In Volume II, the Special Counsel explains why a traditional prosecutorial judgement could not be made regarding the actions of the President given that current legal process precludes the prosecution of a sitting president. While direct conclusions about the President’s conduct were avoided, they clearly explain that if no evidence of criminal activity existed they would state as much in the report:

[I]f we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

The Mueller Report suggests that there is enough evidence for the appropriate jurisdiction, specifically Congress, to further investigate presidential obstruction-of-justice in the Mueller investigation.

More resources can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL). Some of the links require institutional access, click here for direct access to the Mueller Report.

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Author: Andrea Page

Nonpartisan Committee Report on Securing Our Border, Safety and Welfare of Migrant Children

Mexico–United States barrier at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, USA. The crosses represent migrants who died in the crossing attempt. Some identified, some not. Surveillance tower in the background.The Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Families and Children Custody Panel has released the “Final Emergency Interim Report” addressing the current immigration crisis. In creating this report, the Panel reviewed CBP operations and studied short-term care arrangements for those in custody, especially children. Based on these observation, the Panel identified best practices on intake of families and children and proposed a set of recommendations to implement these changes.

According to the report, the recent surge in family unit (FMU) migration from Central America highlighted the shortfalls of the U.S. immigration system. As the result, the border agencies are unable to effectively manage other border security missions, including apprehension of criminal aliens, human trafficking schemes, or monitoring for smuggling. Furthermore, the increase in FMUs overwhelmed holding facilities at U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) stations, thus further endangering the welfare of those waiting for the adjudication of asylum claims.

Specifically, the report addresses the urgent concern for safety of immigrant children, often of tender age, being 12 and under. The journey to the U.S. border is dangerous for both parents and their children, where some families endure extreme passages in remote desert areas. As a result, many arriving children are at a greater risk of experiencing both medical problems and psychological trauma. Presently, the CBP personnel lacks expertise and equipment to deal with these pressing issues. Furthermore, some children fall victims of human trafficking, where they are forced to accompany unrelated adults “fraudulently claiming parentage to a child to gain entry to the U.S.”

In addition to some of the already implemented emergency measures, the report proposes the following recommendations:

  1. Enact and amend relevant legislation, including the Section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPRA);
  2. Implement emergency regulatory changes;
  3. Establish 3-4 Temporary Regional Processing Centers (RPC’s) for all FMUs;
  4. Increase adjudication processing times of asylum claims of FMUs;
  5. Facilitate greater cooperation with Mexico via the proposed North American Family Protection Initiative (NAFPI);
  6. Supplement processing centers with necessary medical and transport professionals; and
  7. Designate a “high level, knowledgeable, whole of Department of Homeland Security operational Commander” to coordinate the above efforts.

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to the issues of Immigration. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

Reducing Cyber Vulnerabilities in Underserved Populations

The University of California, Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity (CLTC) has published “Improving Cybersecurity Awareness in Underserved Populations” report that focuses on cyber vulnerabilities among the ‘underserved’ residents of San Francisco, including low-income residents, foreign-born or foreign-language speakers, and seniors.  As cybersecurity represents a relatively recent yet significant concern to individual citizens, the goal of this report is to highlight the systematic impact of the “digital divide” among populations of various socioeconomic backgrounds.

Significantly, while the accessibility to online services is improving, some populations still face greater danger of being victimized by a cyber attack. The report points to a significant percentage of underserved residents who have lower awareness of cybersecurity risks and therefore suffer disproportionately from cyber-enabled scams. Consequently, many of these individuals are less willing to use necessary online services including banking, health services, or educational programs. Equally, a large number of underserved residents lack skills or motivation to improve their cyber-hygiene practices.

The report includes the following key findings:

  • Underserved individuals are likely to fall further behind compared to other internet users without any additional help;
  • Reliance on friends and relatives provides only partially accurate information on cyber security practices;
  • Many affected individuals tend to fall for scams multiple times, which further erodes their confidence in the online service providers;
  • In many instances, affected individuals have limited knowledge of how to recognize and report cyber crimes.

The goal of this publication is twofold: it describes the urgent need to reduce vulnerabilities among underserved populations, and it provides a framework of recommendations to address this issue. By drawing from San Francisco’s example, the report aims to facilitate public policy development across U.S. cities in promoting cybersecurity awareness, including digital literacy training and actionable public-private initiatives.

If you’d like to learn more about Cyber Crime & National Security and Cyber Policy check out the Featured Topics section of HSDL. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

FBI Releases Report on Active Shooter Incidents of 2018

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has released its annual report on active shooter incidents in the United States. For the purposes of these reports, the “FBI defines an active shooter as one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. Implicit in this definition is the shooter’s use of one or more firearms. The ‘active’ aspect of the definition inherently implies that both law enforcement personnel and citizens have the potential to affect the outcome of the event based upon their responses to the situation.” The data excludes shooting incidents that are gang-related or drug-related.

According to “Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2018“, a total of 27 active shooter incidents occurred in the nation during the past calendar year. The following list is a breakdown of some of the most salient data:

  • 27 incidents occurred in 16 states. Four incidents occurred in California, and three occurred in Florida.
  • 10 of the incidents met the criteria to be classified as “mass killings”.
  • As a result of the 27 incidents, there were 213 casualties, and 85 people were killed. The highest number of casualties in a single incident occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
  • Of the 27 shooters, 23 were male, three were female, and one is still considered at large. Excluding the at large individual, 10 shooters committed suicide, 11 were apprehended by police, four were killed by police, and one was killed by citizens.
  • 16 of the 27 incidents occurred in areas of commerce, seven incidents occurred in business environments, and five incidents occurred in education environments.

This year’s data represents a slight decrease in active shooter incidents compared to 2017, which set an all-time high record of incidents (30) during one calendar year. Several news outlets have also covered the release of 2018 report. An article from USA Today points out that, “In the first seven years since the FBI began producing the report in 2000, there was an average of 6.4 active-shooter incidents, and that figure more than doubled to 16.4 the next seven years. It has been at least in the 20s every year since then, spiking in the last two.”

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Author: Kendall Scherr

Place-Based Visas Provide Pathways for Economic Development

A new report by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) provides an in-depth analysis of the U.S. demographic trends and the consequences on certain impacted communities. Specifically, the report explores the relationship between the current immigration policy and the long-term economic development. As the population growth is consistently slowing down, many US communities struggle to manage their “human capital and entrepreneurial vitality.”

The report provides five key findings:

  • The United States is experiencing both low population growth and low prime working age growth occurring on a sustained basis at the same time;
  • Demographic stagnation patterns are not distributed equally across the country, with some counties falling behind at a dramatic rate;
  • Most U.S. counties, particularly the Northeast and Midwest, are experiencing a steady decline in prime working age adults;
  • Systemic disparities, including levels of educational attainment, between the low-growth and fast-growth counties will persist in the future; and
  • Negative effects of diminished population growth include declining economic, social, and demographic outcomes.

With no effective solutions, these trends are likely to stunt the U.S. long-term economic development and cause significant damage to vulnerable communities. To address some of these issues, the authors propose a new immigration framework designed to have a direct impact on struggling local economies. A new place-based Heartland Visa program represents an innovative solution to mitigating the effects of demographic stagnation.

By focusing on skilled immigrants, the program offers a flexible, additive, and voluntary pathway to eligible communities, thus injecting a necessary stimulus into economically viable parts of the country. Significantly, the authors emphasize that such a proposal might not be ideal for all communities. Instead, this framework suggests a possibility of revitalizing local economies by importing talent via a “more inclusive geography of economic growth and opportunity.”

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to the issues of Immigration. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

In Focus: Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)

New In Focus now available on Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP).

On March 26, 2019, the President issued Executive Order 13865 on Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses (EMP). This In Focus includes resources for further reading on this topic.

Each HSDL In Focus brings together short lists of resources in the HSDL collection that are highly relevant to current events.

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Author: Leena Oh

Counterspace Weapons and Top Space Threats to the United States

A large observatory satellite with solar wings extended hovers over the Earths atmosphere

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Aerospace Security Project (ASP) has released an updated report on space threats. In “Space Threat Assessment 2019,” authors Todd Harrison, Kaitlyn Johnson, and Thomas G. Roberts detail the top four threats to United States space systems, emphasize the need for an American “Space Corps,” and warn of the dangers of anti-satellite technology (ASAT) and a counterspace war.

The authors caution that the nation’s satellites are under attack from more than just space debris; intentional threats known as counterspace weapons also threaten our digital grid, and according to Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN), “the United States is not the leader in anti-satellite technology.” This assessment looks at the four categories of counterspace weapons– kinetic physical, non-kinetic physical, electronic, and cyber–in conjunction with the four countries that pose the greatest threat to United States airspace: China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

China, Russia, and Iran already have space organizations that are actively developing and testing counterspace weapons in all four categories. Little is known about the North Korean space organization or counterspace capabilities, but “evidence suggests that North Korea may be developing the capability to deploy a nuclear EMP” and has also “exercised its cyber forces frequently, launching attacks on South Korea, the United States, and others. In one of the most widely reported incidents, North Korea launched a cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment in November 2014.” Along with the European Space Agency, Pakistan, Ukraine, Libya, Israel, Japan, India, and Egypt are all heavily investing in space research and counterspace weaponry.

The authors conclude that it is vitally important that the United States government recognizes counterspace threats, moves to protect existing satellites, and establishes a plan to invest in space strategy in the event of an ASAT or counterspace attack.

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For more information on topics raised in this piece, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Global Terrorism, Domestic (U.S.) Terrorism, Cyber Infrastructure Protection, and Space Policy and National Security.

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Author: Emily Bruza

Social Media Failing to Identify and Remove Extremism

social media on smartphonesThe Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has issued a report, The Extreme Right on Facebook, asserting that the social media giant is failing to enforce its own Community Standards for allowable content by failing to remove pages representing extremist groups.

The Facebook Community Standards state that the site does not allow content “promoting or publicizing violent crime”; does not allow groups who engage in terrorist activities or organized hate; and does not allow pages to “express support or praise for groups, leaders, or individuals involved in these activities.”

The CEP identified and monitored 40 Facebook pages belonging to neo-nazi and white supremacists groups for two months. In that time, five of the sites were removed from Facebook, and the rest were reported by CEP to Facebook, resulting in the removal of only four of the sites.

The CEP contends that Facebook only monitors sites in reaction to complaints of extremism and hate speech, does not have an adequate site reporting system, and is not proactive enough in preventing extremist group from operating sites on its platform. The CEP believes that “more must be done to stop extremist radicalization” in social media and calls for Facebook to improve its reporting features and analyst training so that questionable pages violating Community Standards are identified and removed more readily.

As long as extremist groups continue to produce compelling propaganda that plays a part in inspiring and inciting individuals to violence––and remains easily accessible online––terrorism in the name of these extremist groups will remain a threat worldwide.

More resources on extremism can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL).

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Author: Andrea Page

Cryptocurrencies as a Means of Funding Terrorism

shiny coins with bitcoin logoThe RAND Corporation recently released a publication examining the possibility of terrorists using cryptocurrencies to fund their organizations. Titled “Terrorist Use of Cryptocurrencies: Technical and Organizational Barriers and Future Threats,” the report focuses on two key questions. The first is understanding to what extent terrorist organizations are currently using—or not using—cryptocurrencies. The second key question examines what factors make cryptocurrencies more viable for terrorist use and more difficult for law enforcement to detect.

Specifically looking at Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, and Narcoterrorist Organizations, the report finds that currently “there is little indication that terrorist organizations are using cryptocurrency in any sort of extensive or systematic way.” This is mostly due to the weaker security of cryptocurrencies, and their vulnerability to cyberattacks. However, the report points out the existence of “lone-wolf actors and loosely associated groups that are likely to attempt, or are already attempting, to use these systems.” Despite the current lack of cryptocurrency use on a large scale, the authors recognize that “neither the technology nor the groups are static,” and there is no certainty that the current structure is representative of what is to come.

Looking to the future, the report identifies different factors that may increase or decrease the viability of cryptocurrency usage for terrorist organizations.  Some of the factors that increase viability include the rise of second-generation cryptocurrencies, which are more anonymous, a growing cryptocurrency market, and the lack of regulatory oversight on many types of transactions. On the other hand, several significant factors may decrease viability, including an increasing rate of hacks and security breaches of cryptocurrency systems, as well as the existing tension and infighting within cryptocurrencies that make the future market unclear.

The study concludes that although the current concerns of terrorists using cryptocurrencies are mostly exaggerated, the continuing technological advancements make it likely that cryptocurrencies will play a more significant role in the future.  Nevertheless, the uncertainty that surrounds the cryptocurrency market makes that future difficult to predict.

For more information on topics raised in this piece, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Global Terrorism, Lone Wolf Terrorism, and Cyber Infrastructure Protection.

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Author: Vincent Milano