There are eight new United States Secret Service (USSS) Electronic Crimes Task Force branches being formed throughout the country, and if you live in the USA, one of them is probably close enough for you to get involved. Now more than ever, we need to work together to help prevent and prosecute the ever-growing threat of electronic crimes.
I've been doing things with the U.S. Secret Service for many years now, and this is the most ambitious outreach program that I've seen so far. Over the years, a number of people have asked me about the perceived danger of having everything that we say to them turned into the proverbial 'federal case.' I can honestly say that I have never seen or personally heard of that happening. Not one single person that I know of has ever had their computer(s) seized or even been inconvenienced as a result of trying to do some things to help or even asking for help. This is a group that does a lot more to help prevent, or when necessary convict and hopefully bring to prosecution, these new crimes that are impacting just about everything that we do.
Top Down Commitment
It all started at the USSS field office in New York through the vision of one man, Special Agent Bob Weaver. Since he started the Task Force in 1995, it has grown to include 45 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, 100 private companies and 12 universities. The NY ecTaskForce has always met in New York, and attendees at these meetings have traveled from just about every state in the country to get there. At the November 2001 meeting, it is reported that over 450 members were in attendance. Our company had recently joined the task force, and this was the first meeting that we attended in New York. My partner at TheTrainingCo., Don Withers made the trip the day before the meeting as did most who attended. It's quite a commitment to do that, and most of the 450 who attended made the same commitment of time and travel expense to get there.
He came away feeling that he had played an important role (as did everyone who attended) in a grassroots level meeting where every attendee was there to learn, share information and network. There were some very powerful people there from law enforcement, industry and academia, but at the meeting, they were all on a first name basis and wanting to help each other.
My partner's experience was a perfect example of this. When you sit down at the beginning of a meeting with 450 strangers, you wind up sitting next to at least one new friend and unless you're on the end of an aisle, you will get to know at least two new friends just by sitting next to them all day long. One of the attendees who was sitting next to my partner was Special Agent Brian Stafford of the Secret Service. It wasn't unusual to be sitting next to a Secret Service agent at a meeting being hosted by them. It was unusual to be sitting next to the director of the entire Secret Service. That has been Mr. Stafford's job since March 4, 1999.
Having someone from the very top of any organization attend a day-long meeting of any kind shows us that this is something that senior management has taken very seriously. The Secret Service is obviously very busy these days with the protection side of their duties as well as a number of other things on the electronic crimes side of their shop. Needless to say, we were all impressed to have Mr. Stafford send the message of how important this task force is to him.
Where Are the Regional Task Forces Located?
Eight cities, including the founding city of New York, have been selected to begin regional branches of the Electronic Crimes Task Force. As the task force grows, I'm sure that more cities will be added. Here are the cities where you can find them:
Charlotte, North Carolina
Las Vegas, Nevada
New York, New York
San Francisco, California
The task force now has a website where contact information for each of the new regional ecTaskForce branches is available as well as a collection of other helpful links.
What Size Companies Can Join?
Obviously, there is no such thing as a company being too big to join, but there is also no such thing as a company being too small. Some of the most powerful get-it-done companies who are task force members are from very small companies with less that ten people (in some cases only one person). The bottom line is that we can all help in big ways. The smaller companies see things through a different set of eyes than their larger counterparts. When you join a regional branch of one of these task force locations and begin to network with the local membership, you will see what I mean. We can all help!
How Much Does It Cost?
That's the best part - IT'S FREE!
Until next time, stay safe out there.
Jack Wiles is president and co-founder of TheTrainingCo and is a 30+ year security veteran. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more about him by visiting www.thetrainingco.com/biojackwiles.html.
Other online articles by Jack:
Protecting Information Security With Physical Security - SC Magazine November 2001
Securing the Future through Partnerships - November 14, 2001 InfoSecurity Opinion
VIRUS ALERT - I Just Got Nailed! - December 12, 2001 InfoSecurity Opinion