Everything You Need to Know About The Latest Cybercrime Developments in Texas

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Cybercrime causes Texas to reportedly lose $115.6 million in 2017, according to Statista – placing it in the 2nd place spot on the list of states with the largest losses. The Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that successful breaches cost Texas over $277 million within the past 5 years alone. Over 100 breaches in 2017 alone led to the theft of more than 2,000,000 records – a 5-time increase over the previous year.

A Cybercrime That Led to Interstate Charges, Federal Investigation

In the early stages of cybercrimes and data breaches, there were relatively few law enforcement procedures in place to arrest and prosecute the alleged offenders. Clearly, a rise in the awareness of the issue and the unfortunate increase of cyberbullying and data breaches has led to an improved response from law enforcement.

A federal judge sentenced San Antonio resident Yuttana Choochongkol to 18 months in prison after making interstate cyber threats of a massacre at a Pittsburgh Steelers football game back in January. The 40-year-old man is required to receive drug, alcohol and mental health treatment after undergoing a mental health evaluation. Choochongkol could even face up to three years of probation after he is released from prison.

Examining exactly how law enforcement was able to track down and build a case against this cybercriminal speaks volumes about how far along the system has come in recent years.

How Was the Cybercrime Tracked and Criminal Charged?

Yuttana reportedly issue three threats online back in January ahead of the Steelers’ January 14th playoffs game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He issued the threats via the “Contact Us” online forms for a local TV news station and the team’s stadium on January 10th and 11th.

Even though his posts were under the name of “I Am Anonymous”, it did not take very long for law enforcement to trace the post to a desktop computer used at Worldwide Clinical Trials. Federal agents used the IP address of computers at the San Antonio test clinic to identify the location. Surveillance video footage of the center was then used to prove Choochongkol visited both websites when the threats were posted.

The FBI became involved in the prosecution after Choochongkol invoked Allah into the threats – a red flag that caused the federal agency to view it as a potential terror motive.

A Broad Scope of Law Enforcement Support

Domestic crimes on the Internet are investigated by several core U.S. law enforcement agencies – including the FBI, Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Postal Inspection Service. The type of cybercrime committed determines which agency/agencies become involved in the investigation and (if applicable) prosecution of cases related to the charges.

For instance, the U.S. Secret Service is involved with currency counterfeiting cases. However, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), major cases involving computer intrusions (ex: hacking) typically engage the support of the Internet Crime Complaint Center and FBI local office in addition to the Secret Service.

Local Efforts to Fight Against Cybercrimes in Texas

Fort Worth has never experienced a major data breach. However, according to Kevin Gunn, this does not stop cybercriminals from trying daily. As a director of information technology for the base, Gunn stated in an interview with the Star-Telegram that nearly 15,000 attempts are made each day to compromise their computers.

According to Gunn, most of the attempted cybercrimes are launched by inexperienced hackers who plug in multiple blocks of IP addresses via automated attacks with easily-accessible online tools.

At the surface, it may seem as if very little is getting done when it comes to cybercrimes and the prevention of major data breaches. However, one should never assume that it is being ignored or overlooked. While local law enforcement agencies and precincts may focus on other types of major crimes, cybercrime receives plenty of attention from (and prosecution) by the federal side of law enforcement.


About the Author

Liz S. Coyle is the Director of Client Services for JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law. She also serves as a paralegal for the Family Law Department. She is responsible for internal and external communications for the firm.