Committee Field Hearing Focused on Cybercrime

Washington, June 30, 2011 -

Yesterday, Financial Service Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus presided over a field hearing that highlighted the role of the National Computer Forensics Institute (NCFI) in Hoover, Alabama in fighting cybercrime.

“The National Computer Forensics Institute is providing valuable training to the state and local law enforcement officials who are our first line of defense against crime.  They are being equipped with the skills needed to combat the new wave of cybercriminals. Investigations based on information drawn from computers and electronic devices can be highly complex, and the training provided by the NCFI is critical to bringing these cases to successful prosecution,” Bachus said.

Bachus was joined at the hearing by Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-3) and Congressman Steve Fincher (TN-8).  Witnesses were: Alvin T. Smith, Assistant Director of the U.S. Secret Service, Randall Hillman of the Alabama District Attorneys Association, Gary Warner, Director of Research for Computer Forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Clay Hammac of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, whose training at the institute helped lead to the arrests of suspects in a drug-related quintuple homicide.

Congressman Bachus said that cybercrime is increasingly international, making it a national security concern.  He pointed to recent hacker attacks on U.S. government websites, including the CIA’s website, and on computer systems operated by major financial institutions.

“The National Computer Forensics Institute is a great asset to our country.  It is helping to protect us from attacks targeting our financial system and our defense and intelligence agencies.  The training performed here has also put financial fraudsters, child molesters and murderers behind bars.  We can be proud that the education being provided here is protecting public safety across our nation,” Bachus added.

Congressman Bachus played an instrumental role in helping to locate the NCFI at the Hoover Public Safety Building.  The center has trained more than one-thousand law enforcement officials since its opening in 2008.

The Birmingham News published the following news story on the field hearing:


More needed for battle on cybercrime

The Birmingham News


June 30, 2011

A top U.S. Secret Service official warned members of Congress at a hearing in Hoover on Wednesday that cyber-criminals are responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to U.S. businesses, underscoring the need to train law enforcement officials, prosecutors and judges to learn to deal with the fast growing category of crime.


“Current trends show an increase in network intrusions, hacking attacks, malicious software and account takeovers which result in data breaches that affect every sector of the American economy,” Alvin T. Smith, assistant director of the Secret Service, said during testimony at a field hearing held by the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.


Many people do not even know they’re a victim of identity theft until long after they are attacked by a hacker, said Randall Hillman, executive director of the Alabama District Attorneys Association. In the Internet era, there is a “most pressing” need for digital information and law enforcement officials who know how to identify and use that evidence, which can be used to solve not just financial crimes but also to gather evidence for prosecuting murders and child pornographers.


“We have very quickly moved from just blood and guts to megabytes and megapixels,” Hillman said during the field hearing at the National Computer Forensics Institute in Hoover.


U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, is chair of the committee and led the field hearing, which is used to gather evidence for developing public policy.


In just the past several months, financial and government institutions including Citigroup, the International Monetary Fund, the United States Senate and the Central Intelligence Agency have been victims of hacking. Sony, whose Play-Station network was hacked in May, estimated the cost of the attack will total $171 million.


Smith said the Secret Service, through partnerships with law enforcement entities and academic institutions, have arrested “numerous transnational sovereign criminals” responsible for the theft of hundreds of millions of account numbers which led to retail and financial institution losses totaling $600 million.


The National Computer Forensics Institute, which opened four years ago, is a cybercrime training center fun ded by $4 million annually from the Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate. The NCFI, which facilitates training for state and local law enforcement officials from around the country by U.S. Secret Service personnel, since May 19, 2008 has trained 839 students. However, budget constraints limit the NCFI to operate only at 25 percent capacity. Full capacity of the training facility would cost $16 million annually.


Bachus said he intends to look into ways of finding additional funding for the NCFI. He said the other funding doesn’t have to come from the Secret Service and could possibly come from the financial industry or federal regulatory agencies.


“We can’t continue to let $37 billion a year leave our financial and other retail companies and let the great percentage of it end up in foreign countries,” Bachus said during an interview after the hearing. < /span>


Bachus said one of the most memorable moments from the hearing was when about two dozen judges from around the country attending the NCFI this week stood and introduced themselves. Several explained the significance of the training they’re receiving.


There is a significant need to train more law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges to investigate and prevent cybercrimes and electronic evidence, said Gary Warner, director of Research for Computer Forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Warner, who also testified at the hearing, said there are more cybercrimes being committed than there are law enforcement officials with the time and resources to fight back.


Warner said only about 1.3 million victims file cyber-crime complaints each year even though about 11 million are actually victims each year. He estimates the total annual financial loss in the U.S. from such crimes is about $53 billion. One of the most important things someone can do, he said, is report everything, even seemingly small amounts such as $100.

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