Ars Technica has an interesting article called “No Safe Haven,” about the US Secret Service’s efforts to track down an ring that used packet sniffing to nab credit card data for sale on the black market, where they were used to ring up hundreds of millions of dollars of bogus charges.
Law enforcement action was frustrated at times by the international character of the ring, whose members were scattered around the world and traveled from country to country. Maksym “Maksik” Yastremskiy was busted in Turkey, where undercover Secret Service agents arranged to meet him on a putative buy, Aleksandr “JonnyHell” Suvorov was arrested in Frankfurt, Germany on a US warrant, and Albert Gonzales was arrested and flipped by the Secret Service, who reportedly paid him $75,000 a year to bring down other crackers.
According to Ars Technical, the US government wanted to project the message that “the ‘borderless’ internet won’t save you from prosecution,” but what interests me is that the principle of asymmetry of attack works both ways.
It’s often noted that there is an intrinsic asymmetry in computer security insofar as systems are much easier to attack and to defend. To compromise a system requires only one weakness, while to defend it means to guard against countless possible avenues of attack.
The same is true in cases of criminal prosecution. If the suspect resides in a non-extradition country, wait till they travel. If you can’t get them for the violation you want them for, get them for something else.
The problem, of course, usually lies in knowing who is attacking your system.