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By Clare O’Gara
Mon | Jul 13, 2020 | 5:15 AM PDT

It is shaping up to be a beautiful marriage. A marriage of task force efforts.

Merging two Crime Task Forces for cybersecurity

Rather than a new, unique task force, the Cyber Fraud Task Force (CFTF) is a case of convergence.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is merging its Electronic Crimes Task Forces (ECTFs) and Financial Crimes Task Forces (FCTFs) into a single network. And the Secret Service hopes to mitigate complex cyber-enabled financial crimes.

From vulnerabilities in remote work solutions, to online retail fraud, to hackers profiting from the pandemic through phishing scams and healthcare cyberattacks, SecureWorld has revealed the increased digital threat posed by this worldwide crisis.

And it looks like the Secret Service noticed too.

In a recent statement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) discussed the reasons behind the task force.

No surprise here: it's COVID-19.

"The CFTF model has allowed for better data sharing, institutional alliance, and investigative skill development. Through these efforts, the Secret Service has successfully disrupted hundreds of online COVID19 related scams, investigated a number of cyber fraud cases, halted the illicit sales of online stolen COVID-19 test kits, prevented tens of millions of dollars in fraud from occurring, and is leading a nation-wide effort to investigate and counter a vast transnational unemployment fraud scheme targeting the U.S. state unemployment programs."

According to the Secret Service, this marriage is about more than convenience. In the modern world, it believes the financial sector and the internet are intrinsically linked:

"No longer can investigators effectively pursue a financial or cybercrime investigation without understanding both the financial and internet sectors, as well as the technologies and institutions that power each industry. Secret Service investigations today require the skills, technologies, and strategic partnerships in both the cyber and financial realms."

Michael D’Ambrosio, Assistant Director for the Secret Service, seems hopeful about the DHS's role as matchmaker.

"Together with our partners, the CFTFs stand ready to combat the full range of cyber-enabled financial crimes. As the Nation continues to grapple with the wave of cybercrime associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the CFTFs will lead the effort to hold accountable all those who seek to exploit this perilous moment for their own illicit gain.”

Cyber Fraud Task Force reveals 

But the positive response to this merger extends beyond the federal government.

Others in the cybersecurity industry seems happy about the change, including Brandon Hoffman, CISO and Head of Security Strategy at Netenrich.

According to Hoffman, this announcement reveals how significant the issue has become:

"Cyber-crime continues to grow at a rate beyond anybody’s expectations. Approaching this problem in a fragmented way has proven to be less than comprehensive. Many other nations around the world have national level programming focused on cybercrime activity. The benefits from these programs or agencies include things like aggregated threat intelligence across sectors, focused investigations and investigation support, data and attack sharing for prevention, and much more."

A unified front sounds better than a fragmented one. But the fight still has challenges, says Hoffman.

"One of the challenges an organization like this will have is the actual prosecution of cybercrime perpetrators. The majority of this fraudulent activity is performed by people in parts of the world where either this activity is not illegal (it’s not exactly legal either) or we simply don't have local law enforcement to cooperate with."

Regardless of the final outcome, it's an important step towards recognizing the issue along with creating national focus and organization around fighting it.”

Related Podcast: Secret Service on Business Email Compromise

For more on cyber-enabled financial crime, listen to our interview with a U.S. Secret Service Investigator, here: